HC Deb 22 November 1977 vol 939 cc1299-300
10. Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is his estimate of the number of mentally handicapped adults in England currently living at home with their parents who will need alternative accommodation and care within five and 10 years, respectively; what action he is taking to meet this need; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ennals

The figures requested by my hon. Friend are not available nationally. However, the number of residential places provided by health and local authorities is already sufficient in aggregate to meet the expected total needs over the next 10 years. What is required is not an increase in the numbers of residential places but a change in their distribution between health and local authority services and towards smaller establishments nearer to the communities which they serve, along with improved domiciliary and day services.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will my right hon. Friend please realise that hon. Members on both sides of the House are made aware when they attend their weekly surgeries that the parents of mentally handicapped children are worried, first, about getting old and, second, about dying? They are worried that their children will not be looked after. Will my right hon. Friend make a massive effort within the community so that such parents are reassured?

Mr. Ennals

I am aware of the anxieties of these parents. This is one reason why in "The Way Forward" I have asked authorities to pay particular attention to the needs of the 16 to 25year-old age group, because that is the group that is causing great concern.

Mrs. Chalker

Will the Secretary of State consult the voluntary organisations which help the mentally handicapped to see whether a programme can be developed whereby parents can be assisted on a wide local basis?

Mr. Ennals

A great deal of work is carried out by the voluntary organisations. Excellent co-operation exists between my Department and those organisations. I doubt whether there has ever been such a close partnership as there is today. The financial assistance that we have given to the voluntary organisations is an indication of that close co-operation. The additional money made available to health and local authorities for joint planning also provides opportunities for voluntary organisations to participate.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the public expenditure cuts over the last two years have cut deeply into the capital programmes for both the mentally handicapped and the mentally ill, particularly in London? Is he further aware that the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Area Health Authority has recently decided not to build a unit for the mentally ill in the constituency of his hon. Friend the Minister of State? Will he make more money available for these essential facilities?

Mr. Ennals

There is no doubt that the shortage of finance has been a considerable restraint upon authorities. They will have welcomed the announcement I made in the House 10 days ago that there will be an additional £37 million for capital expenditure for health and local authorities in 1978–79. Some of that money will be used for accommodation for the mentally handicapped. There will also be some additional revenue and capital funds for local authorities.