HL Deb 23 January 1974 vol 348 cc1440-75

2.51 p.m.

LORD GRENFELL rose to draw attention to a village farming community concept as a method of achieving fuller life for the mentally handicapped within the community; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I first of all congratulate my noble friend Lord Aberdare on his appointment, although I imagine that he will be sorry to lay down his work in the Ministry of Health. For many years we have worked together in this field.Upon reorganisation in March I shall be relinquishing my chairmanship of a hospital management committee. So maybe we have both worked ourselves out of a job. I am delighted that he will be answering for Her Majesty's Government in this debate to-day.

For some years past I have been advocating consideration by the Government of home farms and villages as the best solution for many of the mentally handicapped who are unable to live a normal life without supervision, but who, on the other hand, can lead a happy and fulfilled life in the community with this supervision. There are two really important factors in deciding the future of a mentally handicapped person. The first is the family, and to my mind this is more important than the person concerned. Anyone who has had close dealings with the mentally handicapped will understand the deep disturbance in the minds of parents as to what will happen to their child in the event of their own early death through accident or later by natural causes. Many parents will have other children who will grow up to have children of their own and will be unable to deal with a mentally handicapped brother or sister as well. It is with this situation in mind that I feel that any scheme should entail a guarantee so far as it is possible, after a probation period, that the home will be for life, so that parents can have the peace of mind which is so essential in this situation.

The second factor is the happiness and fulfilment in the life of the mentally handicapped in our country. This is to be the main theme of this debate. During the Summer Recess my wife and I visited four villages for the mentally handicapped in order to assess the advantages of the village life in comparison with other forms of hostel accommodation. We visited two villages under the auspices of the Home Farm Trust, whose manager is Mr. Davies: the Old Quarries at Avening and Frocester Manor, both of which are near Stroud, in Gloucestershire. They have another near Sheffield which we hope to visit at a later date. The two homes are based at manor houses with ample grounds. In one there is the hope of buying more land so that cattle can be grazed. There are facilities for keeping pigs, and also large gardens, supervised by a head gardener and worked by the villagers, ensuring that the village is, to all intents and purposes, self-supporting in vegetables and fruit. Pigs are locally slaughtered; a deep-freeze ensures home supplies, and any surplus is sold at market prices.

So far as mixing with the public is concerned, the villagers are soon integrated into the local community and accepted on these terms. Some are sidesmen in the local church, and two of them occasionally read the lessons. Others do gardening for old-age pensioners, and there are those who help at the filling station and the local hotel. Apart from this, baskets, chairs and trays are produced if the villagers take to these forms of employment; and the girls make rugs and embroidery. In short, full employment is assured in the pursuits which the villagers wish to follow. Where possible, the parents play an active part and their participation and co-operation is greatly encouraged.

If I may, I will now move on to our next visit, which was to Blackerton Village, near Brampton in Devon, run by Mr. Peter Forbes, under the auspices of Cottage and Rural Enterprises Limited, known under the initials of CARE, and under the presidency of my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock, who unfortunately cannot be here to-day. The number of villagers there is at present 30, but it is hoped to increase this number to 80 as building progresses. The criteria are that the number must conform with, first, the ability of any area to absorb naturally a given number of additional people, and, secondly, the necessity to maintain a family environment totally removed from an institutional atmosphere.

At Blackerton each villager has his own room in cottages which are being built and a great deal of the work is done by the villagers themselves. The whole object is to make the village as self-supporting as possible. All forms of agriculture and farming are used to bring this about and surpluses, as in the first village, are kept in deep freeze, while the remainder is sold at market prices. Should the villagers so wish, they can work on industrial projects, including rag dolls which are in constant demand in the commercial world. In order not to detain your Lordships for too long, and so that I may make a summary at the end of my remarks, I will now move on. In passing I should like to say that this is a very happy community, both male and female together working hard at the employment of their choice and enjoying real fulfilment within the power of their understanding.

Early in October we attended a symposium under the auspices of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and arranged a visit to MacIntyre Schools at Westoning Manor, one of the two homes run by Mr. Newton Wright, the founder, and his family. The other home, Wingrave Manor, near Leighton Buzzard, we hope to visit later. MacIntyre Schools differ from the others in that they provide facilities for the schooling of children from three years of age as well as a village life for adults. The children grow up in the school and join the farm community which gives them a home for life. As expansion takes place Westoning Manor will increase to about 100 mentally handicapped. Expansion depends on two factors: first, the decision that at no time will the mentally handicapped be allowed to exceed more than 5 per cent. of the population of the parent village; secondly, the time taken to erect log cabins that are prefabricated in Sweden. Having seen one of these, we felt enthusiastic about them as suitable houses for this purpose.

Westoning Manor is situated in the village of Westoning near Bedford, a mile or so from the M.1. Owing to the facilities of the M.1 the village is growing fast. Relations are excellent and integration is taking place after an early period of disquiet which was overcome by meetings, to the satisfaction of all concerned. As in the other villages, all types of employment are available and the community is becoming self-supporting to a great degree. The laundry is done on the premises by washing machines. Some of the villagers are at present incontinent, but it is hoped that they will grow out of this as time passes. Again here we found a really happy community with the whole Newton Wright family working among the villagers in the house and the organisation was undoubtedly first-class. Mr. Newton Wright told me that one of his villagers came to him and said: "I am fed up with being mentally handicapped". He, to his eternal credit replied: "Very well. You give up being mentally handicapped and become my assistant." He has been happily acting as such, within his capacity, ever since. Let it never be said that kind words do not bring happiness.

My Lords, I do not wish to take too long in describing our visits which were fascinating and highly instructive, but it may be interesting to know that last year I was asked to give a paper at a symposium at Monyhull Hospital in Birmingham on my idea of the future of the mentally handicapped within the community. That was before our visits, and I spoke on the village community based on the project of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children at Lufton Manor in Dorset, where they teach young men and women agriculture and horticulture, as I felt that this was the ideal life for so many of our friends who need real fulfilment in their lives. My main theme was of a dream village adjacent to a town or village, and I found, during our visits this summer, that this dream had come true and everything that I had advocated was laid out before me and working wonderfully, far better than I could have devised in my dreamland.

What of the future, and how can we bring these projects to full fruition? Any of us who in the past were regular soldiers will remember that one of the principles of war was, "reinforce success at all times". Here we have a very real element of success which is being curbed only by lack of funds. The home farms about which I have spoken all have the ambition to expand so that there can be at least one home farm village in each county. They know, and I know, that they will be able to run these villages in the best possible way and, owing to the fact that to a great degree they will be self-supporting, far more cheaply than a local authority could do.

My Lords, I believe fervently that in order to reach fulfilment our friends must have a variety of work from which to choose. We who run hospitals realise that although we do all we can, we cannot provide the variation in work which will bring the patient to his full potential, nor can we create to such a degree the family atmosphere which I have seen on my visits. With the best will in the world and from experience I know that even though the will is there the hospital will always be an institution and cannot be a real home.

The hostel in the centre of the town can only be a form of hotel for those who hope to get work or for those who spend their day in industrial training centres, which at best must be monotonous and in no way will bring out the true potential of any who live and work there. I would beg my noble friend to get the Ministry to understand that industrial work is not the "end all" and "be all" for every mentally handicapped person, any more than it is the "end all" and "be all" of our countrymen in general. We have found in the past that there has been opposition to hostels in towns by those who live in proximity. In the places I visited every village was fully integrated with the people round about and took full part in the affairs of church and community as a whole. Any hostility was overcome by meetings and discussions and a very happy relationship has been arrived at. I believe that this type of relationship is more easily attained in rural areas than it is in large cities, and that may be because the mentally handicapped are working, with great success, on the same pursuits as the normal village community is indulging in.

My Lords so far as medical matters are concerned, all the villages are attended by the local medical practitioner who visits at agreed intervals and is on call at any time he is requested. At none of the villages was it found necessary to have a resident psychiatrist, which leads one to believe that in a really happy and fulfilled atmosphere the mentally handicapped behave as any of us in the normal way, and do not need psychiatric care except in emergency cases. I was informed that there were very low I.Q,s among the villagers and that many improved enormously after a short period in the village. All have a period of probation of six months to see how they settle down, and 'that is a matter that is fully understood by the parents. Very few failed that probationary period. I talked to parents who were on the governing bodies. In some cases they were actively helping in the village concerned and they found a wonderful peace of mind as to the future of their children and had an enthusiasm which amply showed that the children were reaching a fulfilment which they could have only dreamed about.

My Lords, I am drawing now towards my conclusion and I am more than ever convinced that this is the way ahead and that Her Majesty's Government must build on success. I have said before, and I repeat, that the future of the mentally handicapped should be a national issue as opposed to a local authority responsibility. Certainly special schools should continue to be their responsibility; but when it comes to adult employment, homes must be placed in strategic places where land is available and, where possible, where a manor house as the centre of the community can be purchased. This entails national planning. It is for this reason that I most urgently advocate that home farm villages should be established in every county and that this should be brought about by infusing capital into the funds of those who have really learned by experience how to run home farms and who are only waiting for increased capital in order to expand.

My Lords, I believe that the time has come for Her Majesty's Government to call a conference attended by the principals of the home farms now in operation, the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, and other interested bodies, to take evidence and hence to come to a conclusion as to the best form which home farms should take and in what way they can best be implemented. There will always be a need for our hospitals for the treatment and care of our mentally handicapped, and wonderful work they do; but if we can relieve the strain on them and, if possible, run down some of those with the worst accommodation, we shall have struck a real blow in regard to the care and 'happiness of our friends. I am firmly convinced that we shall find many more than we believed possible who will be able to take advantage of this new and fulfilled life and I know that it is the wish of all of us that the tragedy of mental handicap in many families should be greatly alleviated. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, having regard to the position in which I find myself in your Lordships' House to-day, I would be well advised to take the advice given by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, on July 13, 1965, when we were debating the length of Peers' speeches. He said, "Let my speech be short, comprehending much in a few words". Happily I am in a position to do that because I find myself in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, who has just spoken. It is an extrordinary thing that he and who have not discussed the content of our respective speeches, should in point of fact be thinking alike and I am in the difficult position of having to change my speech as I go along.

In your Lordships' House, we have a very pleasant courtesy of thanking Ministers for making statements, with which we so seldom agree, and of thanking noble Lords for introducing debates. I can say with absolute sincerity how grateful I am personally to the noble Lord for introducing this debate because he has focused our attention on a problem that many of us have spent a good deal of time not wanting to face up to, and I think that is perfectly true of society as a whole. In doing so, he is making us, if he has not already made us, face up to a reality situation. I could not agree with him more when he said that it is doubtful whether we know the extent of the problem before us to-day. I doubt whether we know how many parents reject their severely maladjusted children, and society as a whole has always been embarrassed by this particular problem, that of the mentally handicapped child. Society has come to terms with the physically handicapped, with the deaf and with the blind, but we have not been able to come to terms with the real problem behind the mentally handicapped. In saying this I am not unmindful of what is being done, and if I may say so, being done very well, by a number of Government Departments, but I believe that considerably more could be done in this field.

We know that there are several degrees of mental handicap: the mild, the moderate, the severe and the profound. I am primarily concerned with the problem of the severely handicapped because, generally speaking, the mild and the moderate are probably reasonably well catered for in our educational system although they are regarded as educationally subnormal. Unfortunately, the profoundly mentally handicapped find themselves in a position where there is perhaps very little that medical science can do for them. But I do believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has said so forcefully, that there is much that we can do for the severely handicapped—those with an I.Q. of 50 or less. How many there are in that position I do not know; the figures vary. I am sure that the Minister will give us a figure, but I would have thought that there is a substantial army of something like 200,000 severely mentally handicapped persons to-day. It is these with whom I am mainly concerned as I believe that more could be done for them than is being done at the present moment.

I should like to emphasise what the noble Lord has said this afternoon, that our aim must be the creation of normality for them, to bring, so far as one is able to do so, a real fulfilment into their lives. It is possible to create a kind of normality of living for them and to bring about a real measure of fulfilment for them. It is, in fact, being done at this very moment in a number of village communities to which the noble Lord has made reference, one of which I saw as recently as last weekend—a school, a community where, as he quite rightly pointed out, they take them in at the age of three and they keep them for life.

In a caring community—and if we are nothing else, whatever our political views may be, we are by and large a caring community; we are concerned with the welfare of those less fortunately placed than ourselves. I believe that we have to provide more of these village communities for life with people whom they get to know, in surroundings with which they; become completely familiar. I think that these communities must be so located that people in the wider community can be involved. The one that I went to last weekend, which the noble Lord mentioned, is a place for life, where people can have a real sense of fulfilment and where the wider community in which this community is situated can play its part. We have to realise that if we are going to help the severely mentally handicapped, we have got to provide facilities where they themselves can share in the life, the amusements and the activities of the community in which you and I live.

I doubt whether there is anyone in your Lordships' House who knows more about this subject than the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and I should like to take this opportunity—if he does not think it presumptuous on my part—to say that the community owes him a great debt of gratitude for what he has done for so many years in this field. The severely mentally handicapped are often unable to communicate easily with ordinary people because of difficulty of speech, but I have seen, as he has, these severely mentally handicapped persons capable of looking after cattle, pigs and chickens, capable of ploughing and milking, capable of making pottery to a far better standard than I can; doing upholstery work, doing woodwork, and, it may surprise you, the girls can cook to a degree that is quite a joy to eat. Our aim should be to provide these facilities so that these severely handicapped people can lead a life as near normal as circumstances permit.

I do not know what the noble Lord the Minister is going to say. I hope I can persuade him not to say certain things. Having regard to the side of the House on which I happen to be this may be a surprising thing to say, but I do not want to see the State undertake this kind of work at the present moment and I hope that the Minister is not going to say that this work should be undertaken in the main by local authorities. Those of us who have some responsibility in that field know that local authorities in this country are already overstretched. They are already overworked and I think it is true to say that none of them has yet succeeded in carrying out all the responsibilities that these Houses of Parliament have imposed upon them in the last few years in relation to the treatment of delinquents and in relation to the chronically sick and disabled. I think it would be a mistake—and I say this with great respect to the Minister—to involve them still more in something that I think they would not be able to do.

In this country—and this is not to the credit of any one political Party—for a large number of years we have enjoyed a vast and comprehensive network of social services. Many of those, if not all of them, were started in the first instance by voluntary organisations and when they became of supreme importance to the community "the State", as we are pleased to call it, took them over. But the experimentation, the initial investigation and the mistakes were made originally by voluntary organisations, and I should like to see the growth of these village communities, these village farm communities—because there are different kinds—continue and remain in the hands of voluntary organisations so that they can pioneer for several years to come. Their work will be needed all the more as the years pass, and I think we have to face the fact that if this work is going to be done it will be best done by voluntary organisations, because somehow or other one day they will find the people and, secondly, they will find the money. I believe that in the last analysis it will be done just as effectively as by an efficient local authority; but I am also convinced from my own personal experience of voluntary organisations that it will be done much more cheaply.

Finally, I want to say to the noble Lord the Minister that I hope he will take up the suggestion made by—may I say my noble friend?—Lord Grentell, that there is real research into what is really needed in this field. The noble Lord is convinced, and I am convinced from what I have seen, that this is a venture which ought almost to be on a county basis because it is so needed. I hope the Minister will say that, somehow or other, the Government will consider helping to create more of these village communities and more of these village farm communities. So many of them have large areas of ground, and if only they could get the capital expenditure to erect the houses necessary they could do much more. The one that I went to last weekend, where they have 24 people, could take four or five times that number if they had four or five houses. For a mere £45,000 a suitable house with all the equipment necessary could be made available. It may well be that the Government may not feel able to do this. If they could consider an interest-free loan I think some of these village communities would be only too happy to avail themselves of it.

There are only two other suggestions that I should like to make to the noble Lord the Minister: one is that there is a real danger—and I know that the village communities and the village farm communities will not mind my saying this—of their working in isolation, and at this particular stage in the development of this idea it is dangerous that they should be allowed to continue. I should like to see some sort of getting together so that they could discuss their own problems and difficulties and have present somebody from the appropriate Ministry who could help them. In other words, I am pleading for some kind of supervision, and (I do not mind using the word, although I hope it will not give offence) some kind of inspection in order to prevent splendid isolation. I would go so far as to say to the Minister that I hope we might have a Minister simply and solely to be on call for the various organisations which are working to-day for the severely handicapped, and that he will see that this is a matter that can, during its experimental stage, remain in the hands of voluntary organisations.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, before saying the few words that I wish to say in support of the Motion I should first like to say a kind word to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who has just made his first speech from the Front Bench. We are very pleased to see him there and I hope he will make a great many more speeches in the course of the next few years.

I should also like to echo what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, in regard to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. We always greatly enjoyed his speeches on the National Health Service when he spoke for the Department of Health and Social Security and we are very pleased that he is to make one more speech on this subject to-day.

There is not a great deal that I want to say about this Motion which has been moved so well by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. I entirely agree with every single word he said, and I was particularly pleased to hear him say that these local communities function without the help of psychiatrists. I believe there is a great danger in the thinking that if you are caring for someone who is mentally handicapped you must immediately call in a psychiatrist to take care of that person. In fact such people are much better taken care of by their own doctors and their own friends and families. I was impressed during my work as chairman of the Attendance Allowance Board, with which I have been associated for two years or more, with the enormous number of severely mentally handicapped children who have been taken care of by their parents at home. One had no idea that the burden would be as great as that involved, and one is surprised and encouraged by the number who are being taken care of in that way.

Gradually it is once more dawning on people that it is a good thing for the mentally handicapped to be able to work. In saying that, I do not mean the virtue of work in the Victorian sense, that it was a fine and proper thing to do; but that it is very good for them to have something functional to do and something which they can do. It has an enormously important therapeutic effect on them. It improves their physical health and their mental health and makes them far more contented, even those who have a very low I.Q. It gives them something with which they can occupy themselves, and also they produce something which is of value to the community.

I can remember that in the old days before the last war quite a large number of mental hospitals had farms attached to them. I cannot remember why it was those farms were given up; it may possibly be because the land they occupied was very valuable and could be better used for something else. I rather think there was going about at the time the idea that it was wrong to exploit these people as cheap labour on farms. If that was the case at that time, I think it is one thing that has entirely gone. It is not something that affects any more the thinking of Governments, local authorities or voluntary organisations.

My Lords, although I have nothing to say on the Motion put down by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, I should like to extend the terms of it because a great deal of what he said can be done about the mentally handicapped can at the same time be done for the physically handicapped. I think particularly of the place I have been associated with for a long time, the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables at Putney, which is rather like some of the places the noble Lord was talking about, in the sense that the people in this hospital are there for life. They do not come in quite as young as do those in some of the places for the mentally handicapped, but at a relatively young age. Once upon a time it was not thought right and proper that they should indulge in any particular form of activity. But that attitude has now been changed, and these people do as much as they possibly can. Several contacts have been made with local shops and firms, and the goods made by the patients are sold by these firms. This is very good indeed for the patients. It makes them realise they are making some contribution to the world, and also it brings them in a little more money. It is extraordinary, even at the present time, what a good thing it is for people's morale to have a little more money in their pockets, particularly if it is there through their own efforts.

So a great deal of what the noble Lord said about the mentally handicapped applies equally to the physically handicapped. One sees that now in many of the mental hospitals where there are workshops and so on for adults, and where a great deal of work is being done and the products of that work are being sold on the ordinary market. It would be quite wrong if that work were to be concentrated in towns, in big mental hospitals. The noble Lord has put forward a good case for a certain amount of this kind of work being done in the country, in the village communities. But whether one is mentally handicapped or not, some people may prefer to be in the country and some in the town. We should be able to cater for both kinds of people.

My Lords, another matter which encouraged me in the speech of the noble Lord was when he spoke of the way the people from the villages for the handicapped do become integrated into the neighbourhood, and are accepted as normal people going about their daily life in a reasonable way. If I may give a rather foolish analogy of the way local communities can adapt themselves to other people, there was a leper hospital established in a town not far from London. I admit that most of the people there were not in an infectious or contagious state; the disease was burnt out, or the people were under treatment. But when it was first suggested that a leper hospital might be opened in that town there was a good deal of protest from the local people, who thought it a bad idea that lepers should be wandering about in the shops and in the town. But it was not long before the patients were completely accepted in the community because they behaved like normal people. This shows it is possible for all sorts of, as one might think, improbable people to become part of village communities.

My Lords, I think the same thing applies in a different way to the care of elderly people, who must be given something to do. One must realise the therapeutic value of work, particularly if it is work which will be associated with the coming in of a certain amount of money. There are quite a number of schemes operating whereby elderly people, who otherwise would sit at home doing nothing, do rather simple, repetitive work in company with their colleagues. Not only does this provide something for the market, but it has an extremely good preventive effect, because it keeps these people from decaying mentally and they remain active members of the community. What the noble Lord has said applies equally to the really young and the very old, and I am therefore very pleased he has put down this Motion, which I certainly support.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am going to intervene in this debate to-day in a spirit of diffidence and humility. I would never pretend to be an expert of any kind in the wide and demanding field of the mentally handicapped. I have the deepest admiration for those dedicated people who devote their lives and energies to caring for them. No one can fail to be aware of the problem. No longer is it a cause of shame to the parents of a child who is deprived in this way. One's imagination and sympathy can be awakened, but too few of us really exert ourselves to do much to help beyond buying flags or helping in charitable efforts to raise money; or by expressing verbal sympathy to those of one's friends who carry the parental responsibility for looking after a mentally handicapped child. Think of the agonies of mind those parents suffer when they try to envisage a future for their child, a future which will embrace as happy and full a life as the child is able to enjoy, a future when they, the parents, are dead and the child, now adult, may have to face the world alone. Anything we can achieve to alleviate this anxiety is the least that we can do to take a share in carrying this burden.

So I welcome the opportunity which has been created by my noble friend Lord Grenfell this afternoon to examine one of the possible solutions, as a method of achieving fuller life for the mentally handicapped within the community to quote his Motion. Any effort which might result in the establishment and maintenance of a fuller life should be studied, and my mind has been turning towards those who are striving after this ideal. This afternoon we have already heard, and no doubt before the debate is over we shall have heard more, about those voluntary associations and trusts that are working in this field. I want to use a few minutes to speak about the Camp Hill Village Trust.

This Trust owes its being to Dr. Karl König, one-time medical superintendent of a home for mentally handicapped children in Germany. He came to this country in 1939 and started similar work in Scotland. Inspired by the teaching and philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, he founded and became superintendent of the Camp Hill Rudolf Steiner Schools near Aberdeen. From this Scottish home and school word spread to England, Northern Ireland, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, South Africa and the United States of America. In its development and growth the Trust now includes the care of adults as well as children; and to me this is where its strength lies. Just as the education of a mentally handicapped child in one of the Camp Hill schools is related to his or her ability, as well as to his or her age, so, on becoming adult, a handicapped person needs a social environment adequate to his or her ability and age.

In 1954, Dr. König put the plan of a Camp Hill village for mentally handicapped adults before a number of parents and other people interested in the problem. The idea caught on and led to the founding of the Camp Hill Village Trust. It also led in the following year to the establishment of Bolton Village, in Denby Dale, on the North Yorkshire Moors, a village that now consists of 400 acres, with four farms and vegetable gardens and five workshops. This was followed in 1959 by The Grange at Newnham-on-Severn in Gloucestershire, which owns two estates of 44 acres, mainly devoted to fruit farming, with two workshops for weaving and pottery. In 1960, Newton Dee at Bieldside, near Aberdeen, was started with 17 acres, one farm and vegetable garden, a bakery and three workshops for the production of rag dolls, weaving and woodwork.

No one is admitted to one of the villages until he or she is 18, though an application for admission can be made from 16 years of age onwards. Once the application has been received and the individual has been interviewed by Dr. Weihs, the Trust's medical adviser, and accepted, he or she becomes a villager and the new life in one of the village communities begins. There is a long waiting list, and this is understandable, for it is when the handicapped child is growing towards the age of leaving school that concern and fear build up in the parents' minds: "What is the future? Where can he or she go when they leave school? What will happen when I die?"

The life and work of the villages compares with that of any closely knit group of human beings. The villagers live in families with house parents, who often have their own children living with them, too. They go to work in the workshops at a variety of things: making rag dolls, wooden toys and other articles, beeswax candles; weaving, glass engraving, metal work, pottery, breadmaking, cakes, biscuits, jam and fruit juices. They work on the land, and they share in the cultural and social life of the community. A household may consist of anything from 4 to 15 people—naturally, it depends upon the size of the house. It is essential to appreciate that the villagers are not boarders but full members of the household, sharing the life, duties, chores, joys and problems, so far as they are able. They find in their "family" that measure of security which they so badly need, and many of their own problems can be dealt with on this level in a natural way. As no other staff are employed, all the domestic and maintenance work is done by the villagers and their co-workers.

As well as working on the farms and in the gardens, at forestry and estate work, and in the workshops, the villagers help with other work, such as administrative office work, the sale of the products that are made and in the post office. There is a thriving mail order business being run at Botton for retailing village products from all the other centres. The work is of a high standard and some articles carry the label of the Industrial Design Centre. There is also work involved by the distribution of stores, the domestic work in the kitchen and household and the maintenance of the houses and estates.

Everyone has a full working day, with an appropriate holiday period, and the money to keep all these activities going—the cost of running the villages—comes from voluntary contributions, some help from the parents, some maintenance grants from local authorities, and deficiency payments to the tune of 75 per cent. from the Department of Employment and the Department of Health and Social Security. From the beginning of the Camp Hill Communities one of the basic principles has been that no wages are paid, that all the needs of the individual are met from the common fund, and that work is done for work's sake, for the enhancement of the dignity of man. My Lords, is there a lesson to be learned here which might change the spirit abroad to-day? I wonder.

A number of family-size households grouped together, each consisting of a responsible couple and their children and handicapped villagers, constitutes a neighbourhood. Such a neighbourhood deals with its own social tasks and works with other neighbourhoods in matters affecting the whole community. There may also be specialised groups or ad hoc committees to co-ordinate the cultural life and adult education. These cover artistic activities, the celebration of festivals, a rich and varied adult education programme, a course for students interested in social service, and at Botton village a school for staff children. These cultural and educational experiences, combined with the experience of day-by-day living available to all those to be found within a village community, help to mature individuals, so that they can participate with increasing responsibility, and some of them can be prepared for future integration into society outside the villages.

The villages, therefore, offer residence and work for those who seek a permanent community setting, as well as for those for whom life in such a village is a temporary phase of the development towards greater independence. The handicapped villagers as nearly as possible approach a normal life. They are by no means—and here I quote: "Inmates of an institution, or patients or people to be looked after". All, according to their ability, can contribute and help their village to carry on. They are no longer "the odd man out" who is different and looked down upon. Within such a community everyone is given a chance to give, to help and to serve. The villagers can live a life as people with a handicap rather than as handicapped people. The age range is from 18 to 60, with the majority between 25 and 45. There is no set minimum or maximum ability requirement, though it has been found desirable to have some capacity for community living. It is too early yet to say how the villagers will age. Some movement of the older and more sensitive has already taken place from the demanding climate of Botton. The problems that will have to be faced in general may not be parallel to those in normal life and their solution will evolve as community living develops. Special care units or places within the villages have been contemplated, but so far they have not been incorporated in any of the British villages. On every ones lips these days are the words "community care", and it is just that caring that those involved in running the Camphill villages are trying to establish.

My Lords, we have had a most moving appeal from both sides of the House. The debate is to be summed up by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, a Minister whom we have ail learned to respect and to have affection for. He has shown himself deeply and sincerely interested in the subjects which were his when he was in charge of a Department, and I am sad that he has stepped into another sphere—though that is always inevitable in this life of ours. As one who has always been interested in the National Health Service and the social services side of the work of Departments, I would conclude by saying that it is with great regret that we say au revoir to Lord Aberdare, and it is with great pleasure that we look forward to hearing what he has to say this afternoon.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that everyone in this House, and many more outside it, will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, for initiating this debate and especially for the notable speech with which he opened it. May I also endorse the concluding remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke—I dare not attempt her full title—in expressing our sense of relief that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is due to wind up this debate on behalf of the Government. To everyone who is interested in problems of the health and welfare of our people, it will be a source of deep regret if ever he leaves his present Department, and I am sure that whoever his successor may be he will certainly find it very difficult indeed to follow him. May I also express my pleasure to my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell for his outstanding baptism of fire—if that is not a contradiction in terms. He certainly carried it off with enormous credit, speaking on a subject about which I know he feels very deeply at heart.

This debate deals with a subject which must be pressed home continually until the present number of these villages for the mentally handicapped is multiplied many times over. We all freely admit that this cannot be a solution for every mentally handicapped adult. Some may need constant hospital care and hospital supervision; others may be better catered for in hostels established in an urban environment and merging with an urban community. To the constantly nagging question, to which so many speakers have referred, one that preoccupies the minds of so many elderly parents to-day, "What is to become of our mentally handicapped children after we are gone?", the village community very often provides the ideal solution.

I too have visited several of these villages of the mentally handicapped, and have come away on each occasion enormously impressed, first, by the diversity of the fuller life that each of these mentally handicapped villagers is able to enjoy; each village with a distinctive character of its own, just as any normal village possesses. In each one, the surroundings, the workshops, the housing arrangements and the general character of the village varied widely. Most of the children had obviously been selected as suitable potential members for the village community. Some of them had already special skills and aptitudes to contribute. But all the villages had an atmosphere of purpose and dedication which ensured their success. All of them were faced initially with tremendous difficulties that had to be overcome; difficulties such as shortages of trained staff, high costs of maintenance, a constant urge to enlarge and extend their work and many other problems. So that outside help, whether from the local authorities or by direct Government assistance, became a matter of urgent need and a source of constant anxiety.

In July of last year, the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, of which I have had the honour to be chairman for a number of years—perhaps too many already—and its offshoot, the British Association for the Retarded, which deals mainly with the problems of mentally handicapped adults, organised a four-day tour of some of these village communities. We visited a number of these from Yorkshire to Devon, including the excellent village settlement of CARE, to which reference has already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. Our National Society followed this up, in October, with a one-day symposium at which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, naturally enough spoke, and conveyed the good wishes of Her Majesty's Government. Since then a Working Party has been set up by the Society consisting mainly of parents of mentally handicapped children specially interested in this problem. Their report made a number of valuable recommendations in favour of a new project to act as a model pilot scheme, and sponsored for the first time by a large national organisation in the same way that the National Society had previously sponsored the highly successful Industrial Training Unit at Slough and the Agricultural Training Unit at Lufton Manor in Somerset, both pioneer projects of their kind.

In this connection, the highest possible praise must be paid to the Rudolf Steiner Association, to CARE, to many other voluntary organisations and dedicated individuals, for the wonderful contributions they have made to this problem in the past. They have brought to the work a zeal and devotion, a spirit of burning enthusiasm, and often of deep religious fervour, which have helped to ensure the success of their undertakings. But there is still a crying need to-day for a much larger project, on a wider basis, run for the first time by a large national organisation, with a wealth of experience and expertise, to deal with these specific problems. There is a real need to cater for a much more varied and numerous population of mentally handicapped adults, so that sociological and economic research can be carried out to assess the best type of such a village settlement, and how it can be best adapted to deal with the wider problems that face our country to-day.

Of course the cost of such a project is bound to be almost prohibitive. We are waiting for some public-spirited benefactor, preferably from your Lordships' House as a result of this debate, to come forward with the offer of a large country estate, or at least of a large country house to serve as a nucleus, and in any part of England or Wales. It need not necessarily be close to an urban community, as the successful Camp Hill villages in Aberdeenshire and the North Riding of Yorkshire have already demonstrated. But it ought to be accessible to parents of mentally handicapped children and adults, so that the villagers are not altogether cut off from contacts with their families and friends—a highly important factor in boosting their morale and their personal pride, as members of our wider social community. It should be selective, but not unduly so. It should range over as wide a cross-section of our mentally handicapped population as possible, so that valuable sociological data may be obtained as a result. It should cater for its inhabitants in the long term, and, preferably, for their lifetime care. It should provide a training ground for helpers and teachers, for research workers and sociologists. It should extend its activities in many directions as yet untried, whether agricultural, horticultural or in the field of light industry. It should be the forerunner of many similar projects in other parts of the country—although I dare not be quite as ambitious as the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and look forward to these village communities existing in every county; and heaven knows what the boundaries of the new counties are likely to be—so that ultimately a whole network of these village communities for mentally handicapped adults will be established in our midst.

We now look to the Government for an imaginative lead in this direction. With the Government's good will and active assistance, a great deal can be accomplished to enable Britain to give a lead to the world in grappling with this major problem. The Government which have already done so much to help the cause of our own mentally handicapped fellow-citizens, are now faced with a great opportunity in this debate. We are all aware of the many anxieties that face our country in these difficult days, and of the appalling problem of the Government in having to establish their list of priorities. We know of the clamp-down on Government spending and the insistently increasing demands on our local authorities. But here is an opportunity for the Government to embark on a great imaginative and constructive enterprise. It is an opportunity too good to be missed.

4.1 p.m.


My Lords, how heartening it is to find that the hospital service seems to attract professional men of great ability who are able to come right down and look at small things—buying sweets in the village shop, the tea cups and the biscuits—which represent the vital difference between a hospital institution bed and a divan with a headboard; the difference between misery and contentment to our borderline members of society!

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Princess Christian's Hospital, near Tonbridge, in Kent. This is a hospital in the National Health Service where the aim is to train and rehabilitate as many as possible of the residents, as they are called, and to return them to the outside community. These residents are drawn from the local subnormality hospital, and as there must be a good chance of their benefiting from the change only those with an I.Q. above a certain figure are selected. There are approximately 190 patients who are accommodated in five "houses" around the hospital; four of these are for male patients and one is for the females.

One of the "houses" is based within a farm unit where a good number are employed tending a fine dairy herd, as well as calves and a large number of pigs, and doing all the variety of work on a farm—roadmaking, ditching, pruning and gardening. Unlike most farms nowadays, mechanisation is deliberately limited, since too much would defeat the purpose of providing work and experience for the residents. When I was there the dairy herd had just come in to be milked, which is done electrically, and the residents tackled it efficiently and obviously with no fear of the animals. I was told that the rota for work is changed frequently to give everyone a chance to try every job. The poultry unit is situated near the female hostel and, like the farmer's wife, the female residents look after and are responsible for the poultry—under supervision of course. Then I met John, whose farming days are past, who proudly told me that he gets up at six and cleans the dormitory in his house every day. For that he is paid 60p a week—he made it sound like £60, and I had to ask him twice: his pride in his humble job was so apparent. He proudly showed me his own cup and saucer that he had bought himself, his own jar of sugar and his biscuits.

But what of the problems, my Lords? One of the main problems is recruiting staff, due largely to the shortage of staff houses. Not enough of these are available. This problem is increased by the low rate of pay for ancillary staff. The minimum rate has only recently been raised to £23.40, which these days is not a living wage. Another basic problem is the shortage of hostels to which residents can be moved when they are considered ready. There are several there now who would be capable of returning to the outside community if there were hostel places available. With no progression the nature of the establishment is changed. With no progression, no hostels, no residents going out, this wonderful centre of rehabilitation will become an asylum in a pretty country place. Staff and residents will become discouraged and the project will fail. No places in hostels means failure, but there are just not enough hostels. Of the 40 hostels planned for the area, only five have been completed. It must be realised, too, that this centre is not geared to cope with geriatrics or those with physical problems. When a resident becomes too old or infirm he has to move back to the subnormality hospital, with all the attendant heartaches that that entails.

Because of the length of time that the hospital has been established there (since 1910, I believe) and the fact that the local people have discovered that there is nothing for them to be afraid of, these people are accepted by the local community which goes out of its way to help. For example, young people in the Voluntary Service Unit at Sevenoaks School run a "disco" for the residents—not just occasionally, but regularly once a fortnight. I wish that your Lordships could see the residents going about their work, doing not only the jobs around the farm but also the everyday jobs of a large but ordinary home in a country setting—all busy, busy. If only we had more places like that!

I should like to end with a mention of Peredur Home Farm, near East Grinstead. This farm has been established for some 25 years and is working well, but for the last two years it has had the spectre of the new East Grinstead by-pass hanging over it. If the proposed route is chosen it will destroy the project—the life's work of its directors, Mr. and Mrs. Rudel. Surely, my Lords, we have our priorities wrong somewhere.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, we have had an extremely interesting debate and we are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, for having initiated it. I should like from this side to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, on making his first speech from the Opposition Front Bench on a subject which is so very worth while. I am sure that we all enjoyed very much what he said, and I certainly agreed with all of it.

It is most important that we have something which is permanent. I know Camp Hill Schools only very slightly, but I know a little about the one in Aberdeen, which demonstrates how magnificent it is to create a community with its own interests and training close to an ordinary community of people who are not handicapped at all and with whom they can integrate. We must not isolate people even if they are mentally handicapped, because it is quite extraordinary what can be done if mentally handicapped people are brought into a community in the way that is being done in these village communities. I would entirely endorse all that has been said about this work being something that is very well worth helping, and I should like to encourage the speaker who said that we must have more such communities.

I know of one which is about to start in Somerset. This will be part of the work of the National Society for Autistic Children, with which I have a very close association. This place, which is called Somerset Court, has just been purchased. It will be turned into a community centre, and will be the only one of its kind. The children going there will be at the very end of their schooling. They will come from the Ealing School and will live there permanently, and it will be just like Camp Hill or any of the other places we have been talking about. It will be a centre where the care of the autistic child and the autistic adult, as they will become, is the main purpose, but it will also be linked very closely with the local authorities and ordinary village communities surrounding it.

That community will be in the same vein as those we have been talking about, and those run by the Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, for which the noble Lord, Lord Segal, has done such an enormous amount of work, and also the Peredur centre, mentioned by the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun. I hope that our protests about the great motor-way, which would completely crush this important centre, will be successful and stave off the by-pass permanently. It would be nothing short of madness to destroy this centre, which is not very old but which is doing a wonderful job, just because the authorities want to put a motorway in that particular place. Surely it can be directed into a slightly different area.

My Lords, I think that our Government have done a tremendous lot to encourage all these voluntary organisations. I was extremely interested when I heard the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, say that he thought all this experimental work (it is now becoming a permanency, but it began experimentally) should be done by the voluntary organisations. I agree entirely, but I think it is important, because they are voluntary organisations, that they should also rank for grant-aid, either from local authorities or from the Government. Here, I should like to congratulate Lord Aberdare, because he and Lord Windlesham have set up this Committee, which is studying how Government funds can be used to help voluntary organisations.

Lord Windlesham has a small group of people, very knowledgeable about voluntary societies and social work, who are advising him (and he, in turn, is advising the Government) on how grants for voluntary societies and voluntary work should be used. I think it is very farseeing, and a very good thing to do. One does not want to do away with the spirit of the voluntary societies, with the spirit of the people who started them and so on, but it is very difficult, as those of us who have been in this work for years know, to get from voluntary sources a continuing amount of money for these organisations, and if they can get some help from the local authority or from the central funds it makes all the difference, particularly if the money is in the form of capital, which enables them to build the necessary houses and the necessary hospitals to enlarge their activities.

So I would congratulate the Government very much, and Lord Windlesham in particular, on having set up this Committee. I am sure that he will read the OFFICIAL REPORT Of this discussion in your Lordships' House to-day, but I hope that the people who are helping him and advising him will also read it, because so much valuable information has been given by people who really know about these organisations and who have been working for them for years. This is just the kind of information which this grant-aiding unit will find immensely valuable. I hope very much indeed that what has been said to-day, all of which I endorse, will also be of assistance to the group headed by Lord Windlesham, because I am quite sure that they can do a great deal to enlarge our work and make it more valuable.

In conclusion, I endorse most strongly everything that has been said this afternoon. All the organisations I know are trying very hard to work in this same spirit of continuation and of help for the mentally handicapped and the physically handicapped—and particularly the mentally handicapped, because of their great difficulty in being integrated into the community. As everybody has said, we are all getting older; and when we go who will look after the children; who will care for those who, in every generation, are unfortunately going to be mentally handicapped? It is just this type of work that I am quite sure is the key to the continuation of the happiness of those generations growing up, whose parents must and will, in the fullness of time, no longer be there to look after them, for they can then feel that in the years to come they can rest happily knowing that their children are being cared for. I commend all this most heartily to Lord Aberdare and to his Department, who have done a most wonderful job, and more particularly to Lord Windlesham and his group, who are going to give money from the Government to the voluntary organisations.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have so kindly referred to me in the course of their remarks. So far as I can see at the moment, the fact that I am without Portfolio does not mean that I have lost my responsibilities in this House for health and social security, but it does mean that I have accumulated a number of others, including, as your Lordships may have noticed yesterday, answering on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. But it is a great pleasure that I have not lost these responsibilities in this House, and I am delighted to be able to wind up this short debate to-day. May I, as everybody else has done, thank my noble friend Lord Grenfell, who made a most interesting speech to open the debate. It was a typically modest speech, but one which was full of deep knowledge; and all your Lordships have already thanked him with great sincerity. We always listen to what he has to say, not only because he knows so much about the subject and not only because he had done so much work with the mentally handicapped, but because of the deep dedication which he has given—indeed, I would say that "love" is not too strong a word for it—to the mentally handicapped.

I very much share my noble friend's admiration for much of the work that is being undertaken by the organisations that we are considering this evening. He mentioned a number of bodies, and a number of other voluntary bodies working in this field have been mentioned in the course of the debate. I have seen some of them: the Home Farm Trust, for example, which I have visited and which officials of my former Department have also visited recently, and where they had discussions. In his description of the activities of these organisations, my noble friend drew your Lordships' attention to certain basic criteria which he felt should be observed in designing provision for the care of mentally handicapped people. He very rightly emphasised their need to live as stimulating and rich lives as their handicap permits, in the community, so I far as possible, and with their fellow citizens. He also made some specific proposals to further the development of the farm-based village communities that he described. I shall return to these points in a moment; but I think it may assist your Lordships if I briefly sketch the basic structure of the Government's plans for the development of services for the mentally handicapped.

The White Paper, Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped, set out in detail the general principles on which our development plans are based, and it made 15 separate points. I will not impose on your Lordships by mentioning each of them, but I think it is important to remember that, taken together, they amount to an identification of the right of mentally handicapped people to a dignified and useful mode of life; to a declaration that a homelike, and not an institutionalised, environment is required when they can no longer be adequately looked after in their own homes; and to an emphasis on the need for flexible forms of provision and for close collaboration and co-operation between the various agencies providing the services. I am sure, from what your Lordships have said to-night, that no one will dispute these aims. Indeed, they were absolutely implicit in what, if I may respectfully say so, was an extremely interesting speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. I, too, should like to offer my congratulations to him on his first appearance at the opposite Despatch Box. I hope that in many future debates we shall be able to see as closely eye to eye as we do on this occasion. My Lords, the noble Lord asked me for one figure which it would perhaps be useful to put on the Record. The best estimate we can make for the number of severely handicapped in England and Wales is 120,000, of whom 50,000 are children.

Very early in his remarks my noble friend Lord Grenfell made the important point that families with mentally handicapped members have the right to an assurance that, when and if necessary, those handicapped members will have available to them suitable long-term care. This aim is at the centre of the Government's plans for the development of hospital and local authority provisions.

Our immediate priority has been on local authority services because, taking the country as a whole, it is there that provision has been most uneven. But our ultimate objective is close collaboration between hospital and local authority services to provide the optimum balance between them. I am glad to be able to say that significant progress has been made since the White Paper. Local authorities have responded well to the targets set out, and plans have been made for a steady increase in the number of training centres and residential homes in all parts of the country. Hospital authorities too have been devoting considerable resources to mental handicap provision and there are encouraging signs of closer collaboration between hospitals and local authorities, but there is still a long way to go.

The White Paper acknowledged that although each passing year will bring about better provisions, it would be some two decades before the targets set in the White Paper were achieved; and much, of course, will now depend on the economic situation. The progress that we have made to date has been possible only by the achievement of economic growth. Now we face serious balance of payments problems, due to the increase in the price of oil, and it is too early to predict how this may affect our social service provisions. Already we have had to make very large cuts in public expenditure, and inevitably this will mean delay in our plans for the improvement of services for the mentally handicapped. I think it would be wrong of me not to make this plain.

The Government's planning has been primarily, but not exclusively, concerned with the Statutory services. I say "not exclusively" because we have always been very much aware of the significant contribution made in the mental handicap field by voluntary organisations and private individuals, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood for her remarks in this connection. But our primary concern has been with the development of Statutory services for reasons which I am confident are cogent. The number of people affected by mental handicap, and the diversity of handicaps between individuals, is such that the resources of any non-Statutory agency in manpower and administration as well as capital facilities would be inadequate. Though indeed there are many mentally handicapped people who are able to function at a near to normal level, there are also those whose degree of handicap is such that even with a great deal of specialised help they will always function at only a very basic level, perhaps remaining without speech or the control of their bodily functions, or unable to walk or use a wheelchair, and consequently basic services must be statutorily provided.

Since the publication of the White Paper the impetus for change in concepts of care for the mentally handicapped developed in the late 1950s and through the 1960s has been sustained, and experience over the past two and a half years has more than ever convinced us of the need for effective collaboration between the various agencies. There is an increasing realisation of the greater capacity among the mentally handicapped for a more normal life than was hitherto thought possible. This point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree. It has important implications for the balance of provision between the hospital and local authority services. It will, we hope, increasingly become the case that patients admitted to hospital will later be discharged to live in homes in the community. What was once a one-way door into an environment separated from the hurly-burly of outside existence will become more and more a two-way door.

I listened with great interest to what the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, had to say about the Princess Christian Hospital which is evidently trying to put this programme into effect. Latent capacities will be developed to enable a normal way of life to be possible. It is in this perspective that we have to consider the role of village farm communities. We have heard from a number of noble Lords about individual communities and I listened with the greatest interest both to my noble friend Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, who spoke about the Camp Hill Village Trust, and also to my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood, talking about Somerset Court and the plans there for the autistic.

These communities have some significant advantages. Many of your Lordships and particularly, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Segal, mentioned one advantage, that many parents have a very real and understandable concern to see their mentally handicapped children settled into an environment which offers both continuity of care and also a fulfilling life. I share the view of my noble friends that for at least some handicapped people the village farm communities offer just this. Secondly, it is true, I think, that a simple life in a rural setting may be more suitable for some mentally handicapped people than a life exposed to urban stress, especially for those who come from a country background. Thirdly, village farms are able to forge easy co-operative links with the rural communities in which they are placed.

These village communities may also have their disadvantages, though not all of these are insuperable. There is a danger which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, that they may become inward-looking, and their residents isolated, the very danger that they set out to avoid. Secondly, they have to be selective and usually cater only for the higher grades. The very fact that they set out to provide a home for life means that their residents have to be very carefully chosen to ensure that their personality and ability match up to the daily life of the community. There must therefore be flexible arrangements for transferring a person who is unhappy in such a community to some other form of provision. Thirdly, the facilities for various types of development of skills and personality are often less than those that could be made available in an urban community. If a village type community is to fulfil a role in the provision for the mentally handicapped, an essential requirement is that it must be a recognised part of the larger community in which it is located, and there must be free interaction between them.

I know that this is so in several cases mentioned by my noble friend: the Home Farm Trust, the CARE villages and the MacIntyre School. In the latter case he specifically mentioned that the number of mentally handicapped people was limited to 5 per cent. of the population of the parent village. Provided that such interchange exists between the mentally handicapped and their fellow citizens, that would seem to me to meet the two-way door criteria which is so much a factor of modern concepts of care for the mentally handicapped. I must say to my noble friend that not everyone agrees with this view. Though he may well feel that I am sympathetic to his ideas, I must make it clear that many experts disagree. However, there is a significant degree of overlap between all care concepts, whether provided by hospital, local authority or any other agency. The Government have always believed that there is a place for voluntary and private services in the overall pattern of provision as well as for those operated by Statutory agencies. I have no doubt that there will be a place for village farm communities and other similar arrangements so long as there are well-motivated and competent people who wish to provide them.

I am not sure that my noble friend's remarks about co-ordinated planning for all the needs of the mentally handicapped point as surely as he suggested to the need for national responsibility for these services. If we believe in maintaining family links and in community relationships, then I think that responsibility does lie correctly with the local authority. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, urged me not to say that, but I think we do see eye to eye. All I am really saying is that so far as the Statutory services are concerned that responsibility should lie with the local authority. The social service departments of the new county authorities covering, as they will in most cases, both urban and rural areas, will in my view be best placed to make suitable provision for the mentally handicapped citizens of their county.

In concluding his remarks, my noble friend called for a conference to examine the best form for village farm communities to assume and to determine ways in which they might be promoted. As my noble friend will be aware, in recent months there has been a great deal of discussion (organised by voluntary bodies) about the village community concept. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Segal, mentioned the discussion that I myself was privileged to attend, organised by the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, of which he is so distinguished a Chairman and for which he has done such a tremendous amount of work. It seems right for this sort of discussion to continue in order that those responsible for the operation of such communities may develop their ideas.

I come now to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, because the Government agree with him that voluntary effort should remain the driving force behind the village community movement: they believe that the Government should devote their efforts to the expansion of existing statutory services. We shall of course continue to listen to and study all that is said by voluntary bodies working in this field, but we do not feel that a Government-sponsored conference would add much to our knowledge at the present time.

This has been a most interesting debate and I have listened with great attention to everything that has been said. Though I am no longer physically at the Department of Health and Social Security, I know my colleagues there will study everything that your Lordships have said with the very greatest interest. We all deeply admire the efforts made by so many voluntary societies and so many individuals, and we wish them very well.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he hold out no hope at all?—bearing in mind that this problem is going to be with us always. I think I am right in saying that about one out of every hundred children born shows some degree of mental handicap; so as far as we can tell this is always going to be a very substantial problem. The local authorities certainly help the village farm schools in the matter of education. Can the noble Lord the Minister hold out any hope at all that the Government will do something towards helping with the capital expenditure for the houses which are needed?


My Lords, these are difficult times in which to ask for capital help. Certainly we will look at what the noble Lord has said and consider it very carefully, but I think it would be wrong of me at this particular stage to go further than that.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, we have a rather strange, old-fashioned and pleasant way of calling one another "my Lords" or "my noble friends", according to where we sit in the House; and immediately we get outside the Chamber (no matter which door we use) we become friends. But it is always a pleasure when somebody inside the House uses the words "my noble friend" if he happens to be sitting opposite the noble Lord he is addressing. I should like to congratulate and thank "my noble friend" Lord Wells-Pestell for the first speech he has made from the Dispatch Box. I hope he will make many more speeches, especially on this subject. I am deeply grateful to him.

What has come out of this debate, to my mind, is the necessity for doing something to ensure not only the happiness of families in looking after their children, but also the happiness of the mentally handicapped and the ways in which they might obtain real fulfilment from their lives. I am grateful for what my noble friend has said. I realise that it is difficult to alter the whole concept of local authority command in their guidance role and concerning their responsibility for the mentally handicapped, but I would ask again that the Government should work with them and ensure that success is achieved by their efforts.

Referring to the question of a mentally handicapped child being looked after within the family for its lifetime, I was particularly interested in what my noble friend Lady Elliot said. I have many letters from parents of autistic children who are very deeply disturbed because they know that after their children have finished their schooling they are cast on the world and they are apt to go straight into a sub-normal hospital where they do not really belong. This is a terrible thing, because they do not belong there at all. So I hope that whenever we are thinking of these children and of new places for them to go to, we must see that they have the chance of going there for life so that they may have that peace of mind which I thank God my wife and I have, that our child is settled for life but who can come to us at any time, whenever we wish.

I am deeply grateful to all Members of your Lordships' House who have spoken and I hope that this little debate, which has lasted only about one and a half hours, may do something to further our cause. I do most sincerely thank all those who have spoken, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.