HC Deb 17 June 1981 vol 6 cc1011-2
8. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to increase the rate of building of sheltered housing for the elderly and disabled.

Mr. Rifkind

We have encouraged local authorities to give priority to meeting the needs of the elderly and disabled. In addition, I understand that almost a third of the Housing Corporation's programme in Scotland involves the provision of housing for the elderly and disabled, and its allocation of £72.8 million for the current year contains an additional £3.8 million provided specifically for this purpose.

Mr. Foulkes

That is an extremely misleading answer. Does the Minister agree that it is disgraceful that, at a time when the number of old people is rising rapidly, the real programme for sheltered housing in Scotland is being cut? Will he admit that there has been a substantial reduction in the amount of money available to the Housing Corporation? Will he examine the effect that that is having on the Bield housing association's housing programme for Patna and Dalmellington, as well as causing many other delays in other parts of Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

The number of sheltered housing bed spaces increased by 20 per cent. in 1979–80, which is the last year for which we have final figures. The hon. Gentleman is incorrect to suggest that we have made any reduction in the allocation to the Housing Corporation. Its allocation this year is greater in real terms than in any previous year of its existence.

Mr. Henderson

Does my hon. Friend agree that local authority provision in that area has been poor compared with the work of the housing associations? Is it not true that there has been a substantial increase in the funding available to the Housing Corporation, and that for the first time housing associations are able to take up all that funding? Should there not be a review of the projects being undertaken by housing associations, so that new projects that are especially valuable are not impeded by old programmes that might not be so relevant?

Mr. Rifkind

Some local authorities have responded better than others in the provision of sheltered housing. The reference to sheltered housing in their housing plans is one of the most important considerations in determining allocations. We have told the Housing Corporation that sheltered and other housing for special needs should be a priority in its allocation of resources.

Mr. Dewar

Does the Minister accept that, whatever the total allocated to housing associations, it is inadequate when measured against demand? Will not the programme for sheltered housing inevitably be squeezed? On the question of the sale of housing especially adapted for the elderly or disabled, will he reconsider his attitude, which is fraudulent and which will result in the dissipation and selling of assets that are badly needed in the community? Taking those two facts together, is he not throughly ashamed of his Government's record?

Mr. Rifkind

On the contrary, I am proud that there is now a far greater concentration on the needs of the elderly and on the need to provide increased sheltered housing than under any previous Government.