HL Deb 20 October 1981 vol 424 c691
Lord Renton

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 what steps are being or will be taken to ensure that residential establishments for mentally handicapped people, whether run by public authorities or charitable or private bodies, are regularly inspected in order to ensure that high standards are maintained.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Elton)

My Lords, the maintenance and monitoring of standards in mental handicap hospitals and local authority residential homes is the responsibility of the health or local authority concerned. It is for the authorities themselves to decide how this should be done, including the frequency of any visits to be made for this purpose.

Both private and voluntary homes for mentally handicapped people are subject to registration and inspection by local authorities under the provisions of the Residential Homes Act 1980, and officers of the department have powers to inspect local authority and other residential homes for the mentally disordered. The department has recently reviewed the current system for registration and inspection of private and voluntary residential homes, and will shortly be issuing a consultative document containing suggestions for improvements.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very full and satisfactory reply. In the development of this matter, would he bear in mind that it is now the policy of the Government to get thousands of people, including 3,000 mentally handicapped children, out of long-stay hospitals and living in the community in smaller homes and hospitals, and that it will be essential when they do so to achieve the highest standards?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his supplementary question. It is indeed the Government's policy to introduce as high a level of care in the community as is possible. My noble friend will know that the department's Social Work Service already performs an extremely useful watchdog function and is independent of local authorities, and that the principal powers of entry, examination and inspection available to it are set out in Annex 3 to circular DSWS(79)1, a copy of which is in your Lordships' Library. I will happily send a duplicate to my noble friend. When he has studied it, I hope he will agree that the provision already made is sufficient for the system which we have at present.