HC Deb 22 November 1977 vol 939 cc1297-9
9. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement on the financial support available to relatives caring for the frail elderly.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Invalid care allowance was introduced in July 1976. This new benefit, which is now payable at the personal rate of £10.50 a week, provides a non-means-tested source of income for men and single women of working age who are staying at home to care for a severely disabled relative who is receiving attendance allowance. In addition, Class I—employed earners—contributions are credited to beneficiaries of the invalid care allowance. My Department's leaflet "Help for Handicapped People" outlines a wide range of other benefits and services which may also be available.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Does the Minister accept that more families would care for the frail elderly in the home—which I am sure is his objective, as it is mine—if there were more provision for the care of the frail elderly on a short-term basis? I am thinking of the occasional holiday break for those who care for the frail elderly. Will the Minister consider whether it is possible to make temporary provision by the greater use of Part III accommodation?

Mr. Morris

There are many examples of short-term stay facilities being made available. If the hon. Member has any particular need in mind, I shall be glad to hear from him. He made an extremely important point. It is my job and that of my colleagues to try to lift the pressure and strain off families who are looking after disabled people.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the invalid care allow ance should be increased substantially, because when relatives look after the elderly they take a substantial burden off society's costs? Will he consider expanding the geriatric rehabilitation services? Will he take up the matter raised by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), because we should be giving people more holidays to allow them relief from caring for elderly relatives?

Mr. Morris

According to the latest figures, there has been a substantial increase in the number of holidays provided by local authorities. There is a case for increasing the invalid care allowance, but we are in a situation of infinite claims and finite resources. I am doing everything I can to build upon the considerable improvements that we have already made.

Mr. Hodgson

How can the Minister justify the logic in a married woman being denied the invalid care allowance when she can receive the non-contributory invalidity pension?

Mr. Morris

That is because the two benefits have different purposes. People do not always realise that benefits can be paid in combination. For example, in Scotland recently someone said that she would not be entitled to the new allowance for housewives because she was in receipt of attendance allowance. But the attendance allowance, the new housewife's benefit and the mobility allowance can be paid together, although they have different purposes.

Mrs. Knight

Does the Minister agree that the financial support which provides the lifeline of day and short-term care for the frail elderly is of immense importance to elderly wives or husbands who are caring for the frail elderly? Will he see that support is made available for the ambulance service which has been stopped and which has therefore ended this important service?

Mr. Morris

In our document "The Way Forward", we have emphasised the priority that we attach to the further development of domiciliary services for the elderly and others in special need. At the same time, we have announced a research project into the needs of families who are caring for the elderly. I shall bear in mind everything that has been said today.