HC Deb 23 June 1971 vol 819 cc306-8W
Mr. Roger White

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now make a statement on services for the mentally handicapped.

Sir K. Joseph

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I are today publshing a Command Paper under the title "Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped". Copies are available in the Vote Office.

This describes the effects, and what is known about the causes, of mental handicap. It sets out the main principles on which current thinking on mental handicap is based, and the wide variety of services which are required to put these principles fully into practice. It discusses the difficulties of estimating the prevalence of mental handicap, and describes current surveys which can be used as a basis for planning targets for the development of services.

The Paper describes the services at present available in England and Wales, including their merits and defects, and the action needed and in hand to improve them. As already announced, the Government are providing £40 million extra capital and revenue resources over the next four years for this purpose. In these four years we expect about £100 million to be spent on improving local authority and hospital services for the mentally handicapped and their families in England and Wales.

We stress the need to accelerate the shift from hospital to community services by faster development of local authority services, including help for families with mentally handicapped members living at home, residential homes for those who cannot live with their families but do not need hospital treatment, and facilities for training and occupation.

These policies are not fundamentally new, but there are several new features which give added impetus to the programme. For the first time local authorities are being given quantitative targets for the number of places they should aim to provide in residential homes and training centres. Hospital services are to be brought much closer to the populations they serve, by the provision of out-patient and day-patient facilities, and by limiting the size of the new in-patient accommodation which is needed to relieve overcrowding or replace present unsatisfactory buildings. The special programme to improve conditions in the present hospitals, launched by our predecessors at the end of 1969, has been accelerated by making more resources available for it. For the first time the full range of services required for ealy detection of handicap, assessment, education, training, care and treatment are described in one comprehensive document, together with plans for bringing them into being.

In recent years there has been a marked change in the attitude of the general public to the mentally handicapped, in which the voluntary societies interested in mental health have played a large part. There is greater public interest and understanding, and a great increase in voluntary service for the mentally handicapped. We hope that the publication of this Paper will re-inforce this movement, and encourage sympathy, tolerance and practical goodwill towards the mentally handicapped and their families in every local community.

The White Paper applies only to England and Wales. Services for the mentally handicapped in Scotland have been separately studied, and further guidance from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be based on this study.