HC Deb 03 March 1981 vol 1000 cc119-20
9. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received about the difficulties created for pensioners by the small amount of"pocket money" allotted to them during their stay in hospital; what plans he has for increasing this"pocket money" allowance; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young

Comments are received from time to time about the hospital downrating provisions, but no case has been made for a general and substantial increase in the"pocket money" rate. My right hon. Friend has no plans to propose such an increase.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Minister look at the problem of the need for luxuries for such pensioners, their relatives and friends? Is he aware that the present sum is inadequate for those purposes? Will he look especially at the problems of those who have life policies, which are essential for funeral costs, but are forced to surrender them because they cannot keep up the payments? Will he offer some help to that group?

Sir George Young

The principle of downrating has been enshrined in the rules since the inception of the national insurance scheme in 1948. The"pocket money" rate is considered to be appropriate where a beneficiary has no dependants and has been in hospital for more than 12 months. We increased the figure last November to the current level of £5.45. I am not aware of anyone being forced to abandon premiums on a life insurance policy.

Mrs. Dunwoody

When the Minister is considering the benefits and the recent consultative document that he has issued, will he also consider carefully before he allows those benefits that are the property of long-stay hospital patients to be taken into use by the hospital authorities? Is he aware that on this difficult matter it might be better to consider giving a better rate to patients who are in hospital for a long time than to use the money for other purposes?

Sir George Young

It is because the issues are complicated that we issued the consultation document on patients' money. I accept what the hon. Lady says about the need to proceed with caution, but we were disturbed to find over £20 million in the accounts of long-stay patients in hospital.

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