HC Deb 06 April 1971 vol 815 cc217-20
1. Mr. Alfred Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage increase he envisages in the totality of expenditure on local personal services for chronically sick and disabled persons in the year 1971–72 compared with 1970–71; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Sir Keith Joseph)

There are difficulties in providing figures from accounts for 1970–71 and forecasts for 1971–72 and I will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible. Meantime, I refer him to my hon. Friend's reply to him on 22nd March, and add that loan sanction for building and engineering work on homes and centres for the physically handicapped will amount to £3 million in England in 1971–72. Loan sanction given for building, engineering and all other related purposes on such premises amounted to £2.7 million in 970–71.—[Vol. 814. c. 64.]

Mr. Morris

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is continuing and widespread misunderstanding of the financial arrangements which have been made? Is he further aware that there are still local authorities claiming that they cannot possibly meet their responsibilities under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970, on the basis of these financial arrangements? Does he agree that there is now an urgent need for clear and concise guidance for local authorities on this vitally important question of finance?

Sir K. Joseph

There is a very big backlog to catch up in work for the chronically sick, handicapped and disabled. Help will come to them from many sources, including national insurance benefits, on which I made an announcement last week; the hospital services, where expenditure is rising; and local government, where the rate support grant has provided more expenditure for this purpose. In real terms, the basic figure of expenditure for these services will rise by 12½ per cent. in the current year, which is a notable increase, in addition to increases, not identifiable at the moment for the mentally handicapped, and for housing and health and hospital purposes.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Is it possible for local authorities to mobilise the assistance of voluntary bodies in the coming years?

Sir K. Joseph

The country is already benefiting from a huge range of work by voluntary bodies which Government and local authorities alike are anxious to increase.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Wandsworth Borough Council has not made any allocation in its budget for the implementation of the Act? Will he draw the council's attention to the fact that finance is available and that it is the duty of the local authority to make known the will of Parliament in this matter so that national legislation shall not be rendered null and void at local level?

Sir K. Joseph

I hesitate to stigmatise an Act which was passed with such good will, but the fact is that the Act carried with it no finance whatsoever. A further fact is that local authorities all over the country, including Wandsworth, were spending large sums of money for this purpose before the Act, and are spending it now.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The right hon. Gentleman has a deserved reputation for humanity and will be well aware of the hopes raised among disabled by the Act. Is it possible for his Department to seek reports from local authorities in a year's time to see what divergence exists between the rules they are applying for the provision of such things as telephones, and other assistance under the Act?

Sir K. Joseph

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her introduction, but hon. Members must take responsibility if expectations are prematurely and excessively aroused about an Act which, as I say, had no finance connected with it. I will certainly consider the suggestion in the second part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question.

2. Mr. Alfred Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is his estimate of the total number of chronically sick and disabled persons covered by provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970.

Sir K. Joseph

Different Sections of the Act apply to different and overlapping groups, and I am not clear that a single estimate would be meaningful. I should in any case wish to complete my study of the report of the survey of handicapped and impaired adults living at home before attempting to form any estimate.

Mr. Morris

Has the Minister seen the results of the very important surveys carried out recently by the Central Coun- cil for the Disabled? Does he agree that we must know who the disabled are and where they live, and that official surveys will be no substitute for ascertaining that information?

Sir K. Joseph

The House and the country will be much better able to judge when we publish—I hope by the end of this month or early next—the survey set in hand by our predecessors. But I should hate people to think that help from local authorities depended on registration. All sorts of people who are not registered are getting help.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

In answer to a previous Question which was tied up with this, the right hon. Gentleman said that there was no finance available. He and the House know that the fact that it was a Private Member's Bill precluded that. Surely there is nothing to stop him raising the finance if he wants to, and surely the House will give him complete freedom so to do. Will he not do that so that we can meet the objectives of this Question and the previous Question?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Gentleman is behind hand in his command of the facts. The Government provided extra money in the rate support grant for the purposes of this Act.