asked the Minister of Health how far, in view of the number of old people living alone in unsatisfactory circumstances, his regulations, made under the National Assistance Act, 1948, enable local authorities to provide a welfare service for them in their own homes.
I do not fully appreciate what kind of welfare service my hon. Friend has in mind, but the health visiting, home nursing and domestic help services of local authorities under the National Health Service Act are available to old people living in their own homes, and the National Assistance Act empowers local authorities to contribute to voluntary organisations which provide recreation or meals for old people. A local authority who are a civic restaurants authority can include a mobile meals service in their civic restaurants service which is, of course, of particular help to old people.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that surveys made in certain industrial areas have shown that there are hundreds of old people living alone who require visiting, and who require someone to keep in touch with them, and perhaps do their shopping, and so on? It would appear that this power is not in the hands of local authorities under the National Assistance Act, and they would welcome being able to do that. Would he have any objection to their undertaking this service as welfare authorities under the National Assistance Act?
That is another matter, and I will certainly look into it. I fully appreciate the fact that there are very large numbers of old people who are now living in their own homes, which fortunately they are now able to do in much larger numbers. I will certainly look into the possibility of extending the service.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the National Assistance Board will not co-operate with local authorities in giving them information? Where they have to give a supplementary grant to assist old people they refuse to give information to the local authority so that the welfare authority can follow up these cases and see if these people need any further assistance.
I cannot at this stage agree that the National Asssistance Board is not going to help, but I certainly will inquire to see what co-ordination can be brought about.