HL Deb 16 July 1984 vol 454 cc1322-3

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they have taken to implement health circulars HC(81)13/LAC(81)9 and HC(83)21/LAC(83)15 concerning children in long-stay abnormality hospitals; and

When they expect to be able to announce a timetable for the closure of all children's wards in long-stay abnormality hospitals.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Glenarthur): Arrangements for alternative care for children who are in long-stay mental handicap hospitals in England, and the timetables for change, are for the health authorities concerned in consultation with the relevant local authorities. We made it clear in the two circulars that mental handicap hospitals do not provide a suitable environment for children to grow up in. Circular HC(81)13/LAC(81)9 asked health authorities to identify mentally handicapped children in their care and to review their needs jointly with the relevant local authority to decide the best way to make more suitable provision for those unsuitably located. The circular gave details of the £ for £ scheme, by which £1 million was made available for voluntary bodies to match funds raised for alternative provision for children in mental handicap hospitals. The follow-up circular HC(83)21/LAC(83)15 asked regional health authorities to monitor the progress their districts were making in ensuring the most appropriate provision for mentally handicapped children outside hospital and to be prepared to report progress in the run-up to the annual review meetings with Ministers. It offered the National Development Team's advice to authorities on their plans for mentally handicapped children and indicated that on all visits to mental handicap hospitals the team would be taking a special look at the children using these. The circular also gave details of the additional £9 million being made available to authorities with special problems for projects to provide small homely units for mentally handicapped children in hospital who will continue to need care in a health setting.

Authorities have made considerable progress in planning and four projects under the £ for £ scheme and 30 under the £9 million scheme will help bring nearly 300 children out of hospital.