HC Deb 07 December 1994 vol 251 cc303-4
8. Ms Rachel Squire

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will outline his proposals for the development of community care over the next 12 months.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Considerable progress has been made in establishing the framework for the successful development of community care policy. During the next 12 months implementation work will continue in order to secure the policy objectives set out in the White Paper, "Caring for People". In particular, community facilities will be developed for those leaving long-stay hospitals, support for carers will be encouraged and a flourishing mixed economy of care promoted.

Ms Squire

Does the Minister agree that, in the next 12 months, it is his intention to use local government reorganisation to break up existing community care arrangements and replace direct council services with contracting out and privatisation? Does he further agree that last night's Government defeat on value added tax on fuel was the best news for community care, because lower fuel costs will enable people to stay in their own homes and be cared for in the community?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I do not agree with the second point. Even after the first stage of VAT on fuel and power, gas and electricity prices are lower in real terms than they were two years ago and, as compensation will remain in place, people will already be better off. On community care, we want maximum continuity during the transition in local government arrangements and substantial resourcing has been made available. Resources available to housing authorities for community care will increase next year from £25 million to between £45 million and £50 million. Spending for Scottish Homes will rise from £78 million to £82.5 million in 1994–95 and for social care—providing for community care and other matters-it will increase from £345 million to £390 million. Total new resources for authorities will increase from £170 million to £241 million—a rise of 40 per cent.—so we take seriously the problems that could arise during transition by giving strong resourcing.

Dr. Godman

In relation to so-called community care, does the Minister agree that the care of elderly and frail people is too often left to unscrupulous owners of private residential and nursing homes? In a small handful of cases those owners double up as the residents' general practitioner. Will he give an assurance that that disgraceful doubling up of roles in relation to the care of elderly people will be halted as soon as possible, in the interests of those people?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I shall look into the matter that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but discretionary charging has been in place under successive Governments and that will continue. Obviously we must look into the matter with great care—sensitivity must be applied.

Dr. Spink

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that Scottish local authorities have been able to manage their budgets properly over the 12-month period?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

If I understand my hon. Friend correctly, I believe that local authorities will manage their budgets properly. We have a strong incentive to make certain that that happens, and the arrangements will be properly monitored. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State will issue guidelines where necessary if there are any doubts as to the best recommended practices.

Mr. Michael J. Martin

On the question of proper care for the elderly, will the Minister ensure that more resources go to Alzheimers Scotland? The organisation does an excellent job in supporting those carers—many of whom are elderly themselves—who are looking after loved ones with a difficult illness, with the result that the carers sometimes get only three or four hours' sleep. The organisation should be given every assistance and support by the Government.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

There is, of course, a mental illness grant of £14 million which has been made available, and I will look into that particular point. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister is well aware of the organisation. In the brief period during which I was responsible for the community charge, I exempted those suffering from Alzheimer's disease from the charge, as did ministerial colleagues from south of the border.