HC Deb 15 December 1998 vol 322 cc754-5
15. Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West)

What roles and responsibilities he proposes for regional commissions for care standards. [62457]

16. Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye)

What roles and responsibilities he plans to give the regional commissions for care standards. [62458]

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Frank Dobson)

The current system for checking on children's homes and residential and nursing homes for adults is simply not up to the task. Some places are not regulated at all and there is no check on the standard of care delivered to people in their own homes. The commissions for care standards in each region will change all that. Their job will be to check on every aspect of social care, and to ensure that top-quality services are delivered and that no one is abused, exploited or neglected by the people who are supposed to be looking after them.

Mr. Thomas

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I warmly welcome the commissions on care standards and many of the other measures contained in the White Paper, not least the general social care council and the new national performance framework. Does my right hon. Friend agree that those measures to increase openness and accountability are vital if we are to deliver better services to carers and their families and to the staff who work in those vital services?

Mr. Dobson

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend's point. The system we inherited is a shambles—it does not work. It leaves small children's homes and local authority homes uninspected; and in some cases, it leaves people of extremely dubious background delivering services into the homes of people who are often elderly or disabled. We believe that those arrangements need to be better regulated than they have been in the past, and I am confident that our proposals will do the job.

Mr. Foster

I, too, thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. Will the regulatory arrangements go beyond residential centres, such as nursing homes and children's homes, and extend into the community to cover those services that are carried out in the community?

Mr. Dobson

Yes. As I have already said, we want to make sure that the standard of care delivered in the homes of individuals who are living in their own home is checked on and raised. Organisations such as fostering agencies also need to be checked on. The fact is that nearly everyone who provides social care to people in residential settings, in their own homes or through agencies does an absolutely first-class job. However, there are some rotten apples in the barrel and we need to sort them out.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby),

What flash of inspiration led to both the previous questions being identical? Were they planted?

Mr. Dobson

I think they reflect the degree of concern on this side of the House about the appalling state of regulation, which we inherited from the previous Government, governing children's homes, old people's homes and other domiciliary services. I think they also indicate the extent to which my hon. Friends are determined to put the matter right and stick up and speak up for the people whom they were elected to represent. If one or two Opposition Members had been interested, they might have put down similar questions.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Will we have to wait until the regional commissions are in place before we are told how mental hostels in places such as Weymouth are to be funded? The Secretary of State will know that, before he moved to the Home Office, his hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) was working to ensure that people with mental illness who did not need medical care could be looked after in the community in the types of hostels that we pioneered in Weymouth decades ago.

We have not received any information about the funding of those hostel—whether it be through housing benefit, the health service or social services. Will the Secretary of State please resolve that difficult problem, which he and his hon. Friends have acknowledged is real, and help the mentally ill whom his White Paper was supposed to assist.

Mr. Dobson

If the hon. Gentleman will provide details of the particular circumstances in Weymouth, I shall do my best to sort them out.

Mr. Bruce


Mr. Dobson

It is no good the hon. Gentleman jumping up in the Chamber and expecting me to know the details of what is going on in Weymouth. I am very sympathetic to the problem as he has outlined it. I shall look into the matter and try to sort out the problem, if there is one.

Our general position is that we want to improve the system of care and treatment for everyone who is mentally ill across a wide range of circumstances. We are determined to provide that improved care, whether it is delivered in secure units, purpose-built hostels or people's homes. If there are particular problems in Weymouth, I am happy to look into them.