HC Deb 26 January 1993 vol 217 cc858-9
3. Mr. Ottaway

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to develop independent inspection of social services provision in line with the citizens charter.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Tim Yeo)

We shall build on the work of local authority inspection units and the Department's social services inspectorate by increasing independence, accountability and the involvement of lay people. Our plans are set out in the consultation document "Inspecting Social Services" published last October. These will be implemented once we have considered the responses now being received.

Mr. Ottaway

Does my hon. Friend agree that anyone who needs a lesson on the need for independent inspection and regulation need only look across the river to the borough of Lambeth? If that is an example of Labour local government at work, is it not better that we introduce Conservative community care reforms as soon as possible?

Mr. Yeo

My hon. Friend is right. The example of Lambeth borough council—a uniquely disastrous blend of socialist dogma and managerial incompetence—is a timely warning of the need for rigorous inspection, not so much of the independent providers, who are already accountable through the registration process and the market, but of the local authorities' own activities, which have only recently become subject to inspection as a result of our legislation and where our proposals will further tighten scrutiny.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth

The Secretary of State will be aware that, as a result of the implementation of Government community care policy with Government funding, existing services for mentally handicapped people are to be closed in Coventry. How on earth will he inspect and ensure that people have their rights under the citizens charter when the facilities no longer exist?

Mr. Yeo

By far the best safeguard of high standards is the mixed economy of care that we are using as the bedrock of our new community care policies. Coupled with the extraordinarily generous resourcing of the new policy, which next year makes available about 15 per cent. more money for personal social services expenditure throughout the country, it will mean that there is no reason for services to be reduced in Coventry or anywhere else. I hope, however, that the hon. Gentleman will urge his councillors to ensure that the council makes the fullest possible use of the independent sector. For some reason, some Labour authorities have been so reluctant even to consult the independent providers that we have today had to issue a direction requiring them to do so.

Mr. Rowe

When talking about the inspection of social services, will my hon. Friend remember that one of the best and cheapest ways to ensure that standards are maintained is to encourage a much wider use of volunteers in a variety of ways within the social services, not only to extend the reach of professionals but to bring into a range of what might have remained murky corners the bright light of public interest?

Mr. Yeo

Again, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want all local authorities to make the fullest possible use of all types of independent provision, most notably the voluntary organisations which have a distinguished role not only in residential or nursing homes but in domiciliary and day care services. Organisations such as Age Concern are already making full use of volunteers, and local authorities that have adopted an outward-looking policy are contracting with voluntary organisations to improve the delivery of services, especially domiciliary services.