HC Deb 16 December 1980 vol 996 cc73-4W
25. Mr. Jim Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he intends to announce any further measures to help the elderly in the coming winter.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

The measures I announced to the House last March—[Vol.981, c.1661–641]—to help poor fuel consumers came into effect three weeks ago. They include the raising of the basic rate of heating addition to £1.40; the merging of the old middle and upper rates to a new higher rate of £3.40; the merging of the central heating additions to two enhanced rates of £1.40 and £2.80; the automatic award of the basic heating addition of £1.40 to all pensioner householders who are or have a dependant over 70; the continuation of the automatic basic heating addition to householders with a child under five; the automatic award of the higher rate heating addition where the claimant or a dependent is in receipt of attendance allowance, constant attendance allowance or mobility allowance; a further £1 a week to recipients of family income supplement and an enhanced 90 per cent. award—up to £90—under the homes insulation scheme for pensioners receiving supplementary benefit or a housing rebate or allowance. This package of measures will increase the total amount spent in helping poor fuel consumers from about £120 million to just over £200 million annually.

36. Mr. Bowden

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the White Paper on the elderly to be published.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I hope it will soon be possible to move towards publication, but I cannot yet indicate a likely date.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what study he has made of the effect of public expenditure cuts on the welfare of elderly people;

(2) what estimate is available of the number of deaths this winter from hypothermia and malnutrition;

(3) what steps he is taking to monitor the effects which cuts in local authority expenditure may have on welfare for the elderly; if he will gather statistics at frequent intervals throughout the winter months on the incidence of hypothermia and malnutrition among elderly people; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young

Spending on the NHS is expected to be higher in real terms this year than ever before, and further increases are planned for next year. For the elderly, the value of retirement pensions and supplementary pensions has been protected. This year we are spending £200 million on extra help for the poorer consumers faced with fuel bills. From 24 November, 1½ million supplementary pensioners have been paid higher heating additions and the basic rate has risen from 95p to £1.40 a week—half as much again as the expected rise in fuel prices.

Decisions on local government expenditure are for individual authorities, but they have been asked to reduce their overall spending and to protect, as far as possible, services for the most vulnerable. Indications are that this is happening, as current expenditure in 1979–80 on the personal social services was at its highest ever level in real terms and budgets for 1980–81 suggest this could be maintained this year. The Government have recently set out their position on monitoring the application of policies in paragraph 15 of their reply to the third report from the Social Services Committee, Session 1979–80 (Cmnd. 8086).

OPCS is not able to make any estimate of the numbers of deaths which may occur in winter 1980–81. Statistics for numbers of deaths are collated routinely on a quarterly basis and are available six months after the quarter of registration. Provisional figures for winter 1980–81 should be available in autumn 1981.