HC Deb 23 November 1999 vol 339 cc468-9
11. Caroline Flint (Don Valley)

What plans he has to extend inspection regulations to day care for the elderly and adults with physical and learning disabilities. [98936]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton)


Hon. Members

Get on with it.

Mr. Hutton

I am sorry. I am still recovering from the previous exchange.

We have no such plans at present but we will keep under review the need for regulation in this area in future.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced at the social services conference on 29 October, we are also reviewing learning disability services, including the provision of day care. The learning disability advisory group set up last autumn, together with other interested organisations, will be fully involved in the development of the new strategy.

Caroline Flint

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. I wrote to the Department earlier this year because the issue was raised by a constituent, Ms Sawdon, who lives in Bawtry, who drew attention to the lack of regulation of day care services for vulnerable adults. Considering that people may spend up to eight hours a day, five days a week in such environments, I urge the Government to consider including day care services for vulnerable adults in the regulations for social care services. Will my hon. Friend give me a further assurance that the Government will reconsider this matter?

Mr. Hutton

I can reassure my hon. Friend that we are keeping the matter under close review. We set out our intentions in the "Modernising Social Services" White Paper. I repeat that in the learning disability strategy review that we are embarking on we will be examining carefully the provision of day care services for learning-disabled adults, and children in particular. We are conscious that there is a huge variation in the quality of services provided for these vulnerable people. It is our ambition to ascertain how we can improve the provision of services to ensure that people throughout the country can have confidence in the services being provided and to ensure that they are of the highest quality.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

The Minister will know of my deep concern over a long period relating to matters regarding the elderly and the disabled. Will he accept that while we want to guarantee the quality of day care facilities for the elderly and the disabled, it is important that regulations do not add too much to the cost of the provision of the care and facilities that are required? If regulations do have that effect, we could thereby reduce the facilities that are now available, which surely would be to the disadvantage of the vulnerable and important groups that we are discussing.

Mr. Hutton

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says. He has a distinguished and proud record in the House of speaking up for these causes, and I pay tribute to him for that. However, I remind him that we do not have any current proposals to add the provision of day care services to the list of issues that the new and independent inspection and registration agency will be required to supervise. On a more general level, the hon. Gentleman is right to say that regulation in this area has to be affordable and realistic. At the end of the day, however, it must drive up the quality of care throughout the country. We need a system in which the public can have greater confidence. I am sure that we shall be able to construct such a system.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield)

May I underline the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) about the serious gap in the White Paper on the regulation of day care? Is the Minister aware that it is conceivable, given what is being proposed by the Government, that the inspectorate could close down a private residential home, and that that establishment could reopen offering day care and that if that happened, nothing could be done about it.

Mr. Hutton

My hon. Friend has raised an important point. I can only re-emphasise the argument that I have tried to advance. We are setting up a new independent regulatory and inspection system to replace the 250 authorities that are currently discharging this function. It will be a significant improvement. The new agency will have new competencies in respect of domiciliary care services, for example.

In setting up a new independent inspection service, it is important to ensure that we move step by step to build up confidence in the new regulatory system. I repeat that we are keeping this issue under the closest review. If it is necessary, we shall not hesitate to take the appropriate steps to ensure that there is greater confidence in the provision of day care services.