§ 2. Mr. John Greenway
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the implications for social security benefits of the Government's plans for community care.
§ The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Nicholas Scott)
The Government's proposals which were published in the White Paper "Caring for People" on 16 November, will be a substantial improvement on current arrangements.
§ Mr. Greenway
I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, the Government's announcement of an increase in income support for next year and the clear commitment in the recent White Paper for preserved income support for existing residents of care homes. Does my right hon. Friend recognise, however, the need to uprate preserved income support in the future so as to avoid any erosion of the value of the benefit? Such an erosion would lead to a deterioration in the availability and standard of care home places in the private and voluntary sectors which are so crucial to the Government's plans for community care.
§ Mr. Hinchliffe
In considering the Government's response to community care in the White Paper, will the right hon. Gentleman examine the problems of many elderly people in private residential care who are forced to spend their weekly personal allowances on things which are necessary for their care because of the inadequacy of income support? Is he aware of the many people who do not have a penny to spend on new underwear, hairdos or even a packet of sweets, who in some instances have to be subsidised by relatives, some of whom are low paid and from low-income families?
§ Mr. Scott
I find nothing offensive in relatives helping the elderly in residential or nursing homes with their fees. It was never the intention from the introduction of income support that it should meet the cost of all fees, however high they may be set. We are still confident that the system meets the majority of fees being charged, but other methods of topping up—by relatives, charities and other sources—are a central part of the system.
§ Mr. Dunn
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the community care proposal is really about improving the quality of care, and that the arrangements have enough sensibility to take account of the demographic changes in society in the next 20 years? When I reach the age of 70 in 27 years' time, there will be only two people in work compared with the three people currently in work for every person aged 70.
§ Mr. Scott
I reinforce my hon. Friend's observation that the changes have nothing to do with saving money but are about improving the quality of care. The decision whether a person should enter residential care or be supported in his own home should be a financially neutral one for local authorities.