HC Deb 26 June 1973 vol 858 cc1304-5
13. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied that local authorities have the most complete information about the numbers and needs of mentally handicapped children living in their areas; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Local authorities, through their medical, educational and social services, and through the hospitals, normally identify mentally handicapped children at an early age. I believe that local education authorities are giving a high priority to meeting the educational needs of these children.

Mr. Haselhurst

But is it not true that as information on the subject increases, more and more different classifications of mental handicap are being discovered, and that local authorities may not have within their area sufficient of a particular type to be providing the most appropriate form of attention? Therefore, will my right hon. Friend consider holding an inquiry into the matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are not encouraging multiplication of classification of handicap, because it is not thought wise. I know that there is still a shortage of places for many children suffering from mental handicap, which is why we have raised the special building programme. Of the bids we have received for 1973–74, one-third were for projects for the educationally subnormal. I hope that the extensive action on which we are embarked will do more, quickly, than a full-scale inquiry could do.