HC Deb 04 November 1986 vol 103 cc400-1W
Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) how many mentally handicapped children remain in long-stay hospitals;

(2) when he expect his Department's information paper on mentally handicapped children in long-stay hospitals to be published;

(3) if he will set a date for letting all mentally handicapped children out of long-stay hospitals and into appropriate community facilities; and if he will make a statement;

(4) if he will meet representations from Exodus, the organisation pressing to bring mentally handicapped children out of long-stay hospitals; and if he will make a statement;

(5) when he last consulted with regional health authority chairmen about transferring all mentally handicapped children from long-stay hospitals to the community; and what conclusions were reached;

(6) how many mentally handicapped children have been transferred from long-stay hospitals to the community in each of the last seven years; and if he is satisfied that adequate community provision has been made for them.

Mrs. Currie

[pursuant to her reply, 22 October, columns 905–6]: Mental handicap hospitals and units are not classified by the length of time residents stay. At 31 December 1985 there were 585 children aged under 16 years resident in National Health Service mental handicap hospitals and hospital units, and a further 293 children resident in small National Health Service mental handicap units in the community. The figures include children admitted for short-term care or assessment, and those who spend part of their time at home and part in a National Health Service unit. Separate figures are not available centrally for these categories of residents, nor are the numbers of children discharged from mental handicap hospitals into the community. However, the total number of discharges (including transfers) from mental handicap hospitals and units included in the DHSS booklets "Mental health Statistics for England" (copies in the Library) show that the great majority of these follow lengths of stay of less than six months, which could be for assessment, short-term treatment, or family respite care. Discharges after a longer stay may be for resettlement in the community, and these were as follows:—

Children aged under 16 discharged from National Health Service mental handicap hospitals, with duration of stay one year or more.
Year Number
1979 166
1980 169
1981 139
1982 141
1983 135
1984 110
1985 122

Information is not available centrally about the nature of the provision made for children who have been transferred from large long-stay hospitals. Health authorities were asked to review the needs of children in their care jointly with local authorities to decide the best way to make more suitable provision. Authorities are aware of the importance of ensuring that services meet the whole range of needs of individual children wherever they are living and that parents are fully consulted.

When my noble Friend consulted the chairmen of regional health authorities in the spring about their plans for transferring the remaining long-stay children from large mental handicap hospitals to more appropriate alternatives, they reported a total of 330 still in hospital. Health authorities' plans are well advanced and, accordingly, we have asked them to ensure that by the end of 1988 no mentally handicapped child receiving long-term care should be required to live in a large mental handicap hospital.

We shall be following up progress in regional reviews and a further announcement will be made in due course. My noble Friend, who has been in correspondence with EXODUS, will be meeting representatives of organisations concerned with provision for mentally handicapped children, including EXODUS, a copy of the information paper for the meeting will be placed in the Library.

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