HC Deb 11 May 1972 vol 836 cc1540-1
20. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many mentally handicapped children who are entitled to education under the Education (Handicapped Children) Act, 1970, are not receiving such education in residential institutions for the mentally handicapped.

Mrs. Thatcher

Most of the children concerned receive education in nonresidential schools. Local education authorities have a duty under the Education (Handicapped Children) Act, 1970, to provide suitable education, whether residential or otherwise, for all the mentally handicapped children in their areas, including children in hospital. If my hon. Friend is aware of any special cases I should be glad if she would let me know.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Is my right hon. Friend as disturbed as I am by the report of the headmistress of Stoke Park School that, out of 157 children at Stoke Park Hospital, 64 who are eligible for education under the 1970 Act are not receiving it, not because they are not capable but because there is no room?

Mrs. Thatcher

As regards children in hospital the capital building programme is under the control of the hospital authorities, and we are still negotiating with the Department of Health and Social Security about this. We attempt to see that every child in hospital who is mentally handicapped has an education suitable to his or her abilities, and we shall continue that. If my hon. Friend has particular cases, will she please bring them to my attention and I will look into them?

Mr. Pavitt

Now that the Act has been in operation for two years and the transfer of responsibility from the Department of Health and Social Security to her Department must be fairly well advanced, will the right hon. Lady take the opportunity of issuing information to the House about how this is proceeding and what kind of problems remain to be solved in the locality?

Mrs. Thatcher

On the whole the Act is working well. We are making steady improvements but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, sooner or later we come up against the old problem of getting sufficient resources for the demands being made upon them, and this is another area on which one would wish to make extra expenditure.