HC Deb 10 February 1987 vol 110 cc149-51
8. Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what financial provision he is making for community care in 1987–88; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Newton

It is not possible to identify all community care expenditure with precision, but National Health Service expenditure on community health services in 1984–85 was £856 million, representing a real increase of nearly 30 per cent. since 1978–79. It is likely to have increased further since then, and to rise again in 1987–88, following the increased allocations to regional health authorities which have been announced. Sir Roy Griffiths has been asked to review the way in which public funds are used to support community care policy.

Mr. Pike

Will the Minister recognise that there is considerable concern that unless sufficient financial resources are made available for community care this policy will not work? Will he also recognise that organisations such as Rescare and families of people in institutions such as Calderstones and Brockhall in Lancashire are concerned about the way in which the policy is working?

Mr. Newton

I am aware of the concerns expressed by Rescare, with which my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State has had meetings. I am also aware of the concern, which we share, to ensure that the large sums of money being expended on community care are well spent. The Roy Griffiths exercise is designed to help us improve our capacity to ensure that.

Mr. Galley

The principle of a locally based community care fund, with resources from local authorities and health authorities and an independent manager who would procure services from a variety of public and private agencies and then match services to individual needs, would seem to have much to recommend it. Will my hon. Friend examine that proposal carefully?

Mr. Newton

I respect the source from which that suggestion comes, in view of my hon. Friend's long-standing interest in this sector. It is very much the kind of suggestion that Sir Roy Griffiths will be able to examine.

Mr. Carter-Jones

In view of the importance of community care, when does the Minister expect those eligible to be released from long-stay mental hospitals will be evacuated, given the rate at which funds are being provided?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman has a persistent tendency to ask me questions which he knows no Minister in his right mind would answer. [Interruption.] I am now subject to universal advice not to answer. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Government policy is that people should not be removed from mental illness, mental handicap or other institutions without proper provision being made in the community. It is our persistent endeavour to ensure that that should not happen.

Mr. Crouch

In view of the emphasis recently placed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the importance of community care in the treatment of AIDS, will my hon. Friend allocate additional funds for this part of the treatment? Will he further confirm the reports in The Times this morning that an additional and separate amount of £10 million is to be allocated to research seeking a cure for AIDS?

Mr. Newton

It is for health authorities to determine how to use their allocations, including the extra AIDS allocations to three of the Thames regions announced last week. The point about community care is that further work is needed. As my hon. Friend will know, we are convening a conference towards the end of next month with the voluntary organisations, the churches and professional bodies to look at community care for AIDS cases. On the latter point, I cannot confirm any particular figure. We are discussing these matters, but we are considering initiating a different way of fostering research into AIDS.

Mr. Meacher

Is the Minister aware that the Audit Commission report on community care last month roundly condemned his policies as a £6 billion misallocation of public funds? What action is he therefore taking to stop his perverse anti-community care policy of flooding the private sector with public supplementary benefit money for residential care, while at the same time stopping or reducing community care by squeezing local authority social service budgets? Is he aware that there has been a 25 per cent. cut in mental illness and mental handicap hospital beds since 1979 and that many thousands of these people are now utterly neglected in the community?

Mr. Newton

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's description, either of the Audit Commission report or of those Government policies which have significantly extended choice to many people who could not otherwise have afforded it. So far as his figures on beds are concerned, I must ask the hon. Gentleman to stop using those figures in this irresponsible way. He knows perfectly well that he is including in those figures, among other things, the beds that used to be occupied by the children in long-stay mental handicap hospitals who have been got out into better care in the community, and that is a policy which all of us support.