HC Deb 06 July 1981 vol 8 cc28-9W

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement on the results of his Department in achieving the Government's policy programme since he answered a similar question from the hon. Member for Melton on 3 June 1980.

Mrs. Chalker

The Government have made further progress towards their objectives in the health and personal social services. Gross spending on the NHS this year is planned to be 2.6 per cent. higher in real terms than last year. Following the passage of the Health Services Act 1980, our policy on the private medical sector is being put into effect. We have now decided on the pattern of most of the district health authorities which will replace the existing area health authorities and districts next April. Work is well in hand to streamline management arrangements, simplify planning and reduce management costs. We have halved the number of circulars sent to the NHS. The Department has maintained the value of funds available for grants to voluntary bodies. In "Care in Action" we have given health and local authorities guidance on major policies and priorities. We have announced plans for implementing further sections of the Children Act 1975, have published the review of mental handicap and taken other steps to maintain progress towards improved standards and increased community care for mentally handicapped people, especially children, opened the first phase of the new Park Lane special hospital, published a White Paper on the elderly, and contributed to the International Year of Disabled People.

In the social security field, we have made reductions in social security expenditure which will amount to about £1.4 billion a year by 1982–83 but at the same time have honoured our commitments and have continued to help those most in need. The rates of supplementary benefits and of pensions have been fully price-protected. The reform of the supplementary benefit scheme has been implemented and is working well. Proposals for the reform of assistance with housing costs, including those now provided through supplementary benefit, have been put forward by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Environment. Special help with heating costs, extended last winter, is being maintained. By next year the cost will be about £250 million—much more in real terms than the programme we inherited. There will be an increase of 50 pence in child benefit and of 30 pence in the one-parent benefit as from November 1981, and these increases will fully protect their November 1980 values. Family income supplement is now helping many more low-paid working families, especially lone parents, and providing them with a "passport" to other benefits. Invalid care allowance has been extended to non-relatives. Mobility allowance is again to be raised ahead of prices, so that in November 1981 it will be 65 per cent. higher than when the Government took office. The momentum built up in the attack on fraud and abuse has been maintained without relaxing the safeguards against unfair pressure. New returns have shown that the Department's efforts have stopped a substantial outflow of public money on fraudulent and other wrongful benefit claims and have facilitated the continuing direction and management of these efforts.