HC Deb 16 June 1992 vol 209 cc761-2
3. Mr. Nigel Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on progress on the implementation of community care.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

We set out the timetable for implementing our community care reforms in 1990. Many of them have already been achieved. We are on course to achieve the remainder by April 1993.

Mr. Griffiths

How does the Minister reconcile that with the statement by the Institute of Health Services Management that the Government have inadequately planned and inadequately funded community care? Social services departments are being starved of the £134 million that they need for community care this year. How does the hon. Gentleman expect tens of thousands of carers to meet the needs of disabled relatives when the Government are doing so little?

Dr. Mawhinney

The Government are doing a considerable amount—indeed, we have just had the second round of reports from local authorities, and those reports show that the authorities are making steady progress towards implementing the arrangements that must be in place.

Mr. Griffiths

Not true.

Dr. Mawhinney

It is true. I am quoting from reports that we have just received. Funding will be considered within the public expenditure survey, and decisions on that have not yet been announced.

Mr. Sims

Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is his intention that the private sector should play an important role in community care? As he studies the community care plans submitted by local authorities, will he satisfy himself that the private sector has been involved in the preparation of those plans and that it will be involved in their implementation?

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend is right to point out the importance that we attach to giving people a clear choice in the homes to which they go. I also believe that the public generally attach some importance to having that choice. I assure my hon. Friend that, as we continue to progress towards the implementation of this important reform, we shall certainly bear in mind the point that he has made and will want to try to ensure that local authorities relate not only to the independent sector of provision but to health authorities, and GPs, because it is in the interests of everyone—primarily of users and their carers—that there should be a seamless robe as between the various statutory organisations.

Ms. Lynne

Does the Minister accept that, without adequate resources for community care, there will be a disaster in April? May we have a commitment today that those resources will be provided and that they will be ring-fenced?

Dr. Mawhinney

We have already made it clear a number of times that we shall ensure that the policy is adequately resourced, and I make the point to the hon. Lady again today. I understand her concern, but I hope that she will not be too keen to use words such as "disaster". This is an important policy, especially to people in the community who need opportunities for assessment. Many of them want to remain in their own homes, but thus far have not had the option to do so. We are not talking about disasters waiting to happen; we are committing all our efforts, with local authorities, to ensuring that the policy will be a real success.

Mrs. Currie

Is the Minister aware that there continues to be considerable concern about community care for mentally handicapped people? Will he take an interest in the activities of VOICE, an organisation set up by my constituents Mr. and Mrs. Boniface to campaign for better recruitment, training and monitoring of staff in small homes for the mentally handicapped following the recent tragic indecent assault on their daughter Nicole?

Dr. Mawhinney

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing my attention and that of the House to that important matter. I can certainly give her the assurance that she seeks.

Mr. Robin Cook

Will the Minister acknowledge that last month's survey by the Directorate of Social Services found wild variations in standards? Is he aware that among the 20 authorities with the worst records in the provision of home helps were Suffolk, represented by the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo), Cambridgeshire, represented by himself, and, at the very bottom of the table, Surrey, represented by the Secretary of State? Would not it ease their joint embarrassment if Ministers were now to accept the advice of everyone else involved in community care that any extra money should be ring fenced so that those councils must spend it on raising their poor standards?

Dr. Mawhinney

I do not accept for one moment that the reports which we have just received show that there are "wild variations". Of the 108 local authorities that have reported, all bar one have their assessment plans in place. We shall work with them to develop those plans so that when they are managed with adequate resources we shall have a community care proposal and policy which will be welcomed by users and carers alike. I very much hope that before he leaves his present position—should that turn out to be the case—the hon. Gentleman will throw his weight behind the policy to try, as far as possible, to remove from it any partisan elements for the benefit of the frail and elderly in our community.