HC Deb 09 November 1971 vol 825 cc808-11
6. Mr. Leadbitter

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of those authorities which have powers under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970; the total expenditure of each authority on the chronically sick and disabled under the Act and other provisions for the years 1969 and 1970 respectively; and what this expenditure represents as an amount per head of registered chronically sick and disabled.

Mr. Alison

The Act confers duties and powers on all county, county borough and London borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London. The remaining information is not available.

Mr. Leadbitter

I wonder whether the Minister will bear in mind that an all-party Committee on this subject recently had information before it that the amount spent per head on chronically sick and disabled persons, authority by authority, showed considerable disparities. The best of the authorities fell far short of what was desirable, and the worst of most authorities was an utter disgrace. Will he seek to implement the intentions of the Act and have an inquiry made by the local authorities which he has mentioned to see to what extent they will implement not only these provisions, but others, to help the disabled?

Mr. Alison

I recognise, with the hon. Gentleman, that there are disparities. There are real difficulties in recording because services are delivered to the chronically sick and disabled under at least three separate instruments and many who are not registered as disabled receive services. It is difficult to make an exact per capita allocation. We are not satisfied that the standards of all are up to the standards of the highest.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Can the hon. Gentleman give any indication whether more money will be provided for the implementation of the Act? His right hon. Friend and he have constantly said that the strain on the hospital service could be reduced if more help was given to people at home. May we from this side of the House therefore again press that more money should be made available for the implementation of the Act?

Mr. Alison

The figures of expenditure under Section 29 of the National Assistance Act, one of the biggest areas for which provision is made, rose from £9.7 million in 1969-70 to £12 million in 1970-71 and will be up by another £1½ million for 1971-72, so that there is a steady upward movement.

11. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the implementation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act by all local authorities; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alison

We shall not be satisfied until services for the handicapped are much more fully developed than at present, but we have no reason to think that any authority is failing to make progress in providing services within the limits of its available resources.

Mr. Ashley

Would the hon. Gentleman nevertheless admit that some local authorities are making much less of an effort to provide resources than others? Is he prepared to take action against authorities to ensure that the level is raised to that achieved by authorities making the greatest efforts?

Mr. Alison

We intend to discuss this with the local authority associations in due course, in the light of the reports of action taken by authorities under Section 1 of the Act. It has to be realised that the type and scale of services provided must be the responsibility of the individual local authority.

Mr. Marks

Will the hon. Gentleman circularise local authorities asking them not to refuse telephones to disabled people because they live in houses which are due for slum clearance within the next few years? Is he aware that these are the people who probably need telephones most of all?

Mr. Alison

I have noted the hon. Gentleman's remarks and will consider them.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Reverting to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), will the hon. Gentleman agree to look again at the need for further resources to be allocated to local authorities to improve their community and domiciliary services? Secondly, has the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend seen the remarkable and deeply important survey on the chronically sick and disabled sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone)? Will the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Scotland be discussing this disturbing report with my hon. Friend at an early date?

Mr. Alison

My right hon. Friend has seen and read the report and we shall be discussing it. We are increasing resources. I gave the increases under one head, Section 29 of the National Assistance Act, 1948, but we are also increasing expenditure under various other instruments not specifically applicable to the chronically sick and disabled but which contain a number of people in that category.

Mr. Burden

Would my hon. Friend make representations to British Rail to ensure that they improve facilities for the conveyance of severely disabled people?

Mr. Alison

I will certainly note what my hon. Friend suggests.