HC Deb 01 February 1972 vol 830 cc220-1
6. Mr. Walter Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give advice to local authorities on the desirability of compiling a register of old persons living alone.

Mr. Alison

Advice on the value of registers of the elderly and handicapped was given in Departmental circulars 19/71 and 45/71 issued last year, of which I am sending copies to the hon. Member.

Mr. Johnson

I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. Is he aware that many thousands of old people who are living alone are unaware of the welfare services available to them? Surely a register, which can be compiled properly only by a local authority, is the way to deal with this situation. I am glad that the Minister is thinking along these lines. Will he please follow it up?

Mr. Alison

Yes. We are particularly conscious of the 8,000 severely handicapped elderly people living alone whom we are making a special attempt to identify and locate. The hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that an effective register has to be continually updated, and not all elderly folk like to be pried upon the whole time.

Mr. Rost

Will my hon. Friend reconsider introducing free or reduced telephone rentals for old people living alone, because for such people telephones are not a convenience or luxury but a matter of life or death?

Mr. Alison

That is another question, but I certainly note what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Edward Lyons

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the present methods for compiling such registers are satisfactory? In Bradford, an old man aged 79 had been dead for a week before that was discovered. He was unknown to the welfare department. Although that particular welfare department is most thorough in compiling its register, it admits that there are many such cases unknown to it. How does the Minister hope to cure that situation?

Mr. Alison

I should like details of that case. Registration is not a 100 per cent. foolproof system.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Will the Minister bear in mind that several local authorities, including the Bedworth Urban District Council in my constituency, are investigating the possibilities of compiling such registers? Will he tell the House what the circulars said about the need to preserve confidentiality of this information in certain categories?

Mr. Alison

I think that the best course would be for me to send both the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend copies of the circulars.