HL Deb 27 May 1976 vol 371 cc349-52

11.15 a.m.

The Countess of LOUDOUN

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the surveys undertaken by local authorities under Section 1 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, and whether they consider the information gained from those surveys to be of sufficient quality to enable local authorities to plan the provision of their services for disabled people.


My Lords, the purpose of the surveys was to enable local authorities to estimate the extent and scope of services required in their area; they have been a useful planning tool but do not of course obviate the need for continuing action to identify individual people needing particular services.

The Countess of LOUDOUN

My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask whether it is a fact that, without the full implementation of Section 1, the benefits outlined in Section 2, and in some cases social service benefits, will never reach those for whom they are intended, and because of their disabilities the disabled and especially the mentally handicapped have been unable to claim their due share of the resources?


My Lords, I do not accept that there has not been a full implementation of Section 1. The very nature of Section 1 lays a duty on the local authority to ascertain in its area the needs of people, and, first, to find out whether they are disabled in one form or another. It must of course be a continuing process, and in the year 1974–75 local authorities in England were able to add the names of 135,700 disabled people to their general class registers. This is a considerably higher number than was added in the previous year. At present there are about 580,000 people on the general class registers of local authorities, and this compares with 234,000 five years ago; so considerable progress is being made.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a number of authorities are not exercising the powers which they could exercise under the Act? What steps are being taken to ensure that councils appreciate that this is a very important matter for them to attend to?


My Lords, officials of my Department are constantly in contact with local authorities. if my noble friend has any concrete example of a local authority which is not facing up to its responsibilities, we should be glad to have it.


My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that all the local authorities have submitted surveys the completion of which is required of them under the Act, which was passed six years ago? If not, may I ask him to say which local authorities have so far failed to do so?


My Lords, since I do not happen to have it, I cannot give any information of the individual local authorities which may be behind with their surveys. However, if we do not get surveys at regular intervals from local authorities, we are in touch with them to ensure that we get them within a reasonable time.


My Lords, if local authorities do not co-operate—and I gather that there are some local authorities which have not taken action which they should have taken —would it be a good idea to name them in this House?


That is a matter of opinion, my Lords. One would first have to find out why the local authorities which are not meeting the requirements are unable to meet them. I think that all noble Lords are aware of the continued and continuous pressure which is today on local authorities, particularly the social services, and there is a limit to how far we can push them at the present time.


My Lords, now that Dr. Brown's report has been received and the Government have some idea of what has been done to date, may I ask the noble Lord to say what plans the Government have for implementing the report?


My Lords, on the survey by Dr. Malcolm Brown into the methods adopted by the former local authorities implementing Section 1, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has recently reviewed the first draft of the report of the Social Services Unit at Birmingham University which surveyed the action taken in 1971–72 by the former local authorities to inform themselves as to the extent of the disablement problem. At the present time we are considering the report and I hope that it will be possible to lay a copy of it in the Library of your Lordships' House as soon as any points of doubt on the draft have been resolved.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, does the Minister believe that some local voluntary groups which want to help the disabled people get as much assistance as they might from social services departments in finding out who are the people who need help? If the noble Lord does not think that that is happening, will he encourage social services departments to give more help to voluntary groups?


My Lords, with great respect, it sounds as if that is a supposition. Many of your Lordships know that local authorities have used a number of voluntary organisations which are in touch with the people at all levels in order to compile these surveys. I have no reason to believe that any local authority has rejected any help that voluntary organisations can give in this matter.


My Lords, in view of the fact that local authorities are under very great pressure to cut their expenditure, will my noble friend consider sending a circular to local authorities saying that any cuts they make should not be at the expense of the services for the disabled?


My Lords, the programme for personal social services, which is highlighted in the public expenditure White Paper (Cmnd. 6393), allows for a continuing implementation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. Those of your Lordships who have read the Priorities for Health and Personal Social Services in England will know that the rate at which expansion is suggested for certain key services provided for under Section 2 of the Act has been increased for the forthcoming year by 9 per cent.