I beg to move,
This is a small Bill to right a very big wrong, and it concerns a very grave problem that confronts us all, although I have devoted this Bill to Scotland only. It concerns the problem of our aged population. I do not think that this Bill would have been necessary if, 20 years ago, this problem had been approached in the correct way. Twenty years ago, a leading mental specialist in Scotland urged local authorities to make provisions in mental institutions for an ageing population. In other words, he confronted local authorities with the fact that people were living longer. The Psalmist says:That leave be given to bring in a Bill to permit in Scotland the reception into and maintenance in mental hospitals and similar institutions for the purpose of care and attention of senile persons without certification of insanity or lunacy; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.
Our leading mental specialist foresaw the sorrow, because ever since our aged people in Scotland have been put into mental institutions and certified as lunatics. The only way in which they can obtain a bed is by their being certified as lunatics. This has caused distress to families and relatives. Many Members of the House will know that when a person applies for a post there is often this question, "Is there lunacy in the family?" There is something similar in connection with insurance and the answer must be "Yes" merely because an old lady of, perhaps, 84 has been sent into a mad-house and certified as being of unsound mind."The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow."
On a point of order. Is this not a matter for a grant-in-aid? As this Bill deals with a financial matter, is it therefore in order to discuss it now?
I am informed that it is, and if I am allowed to finish within the 10 minutes, I hope to show that it will not involve any finance.We have known of marriages being cancelled because someone does not want to marry a person whose mother died insane or whose father was certified as a lunatic. It is not something which we can anticipate will diminish. Indeed, it is increasing, and I find, from replies giving the number of people in our mental hospitals, that in Woodilee Asylum, where there are 1,200 beds, there are 450 people over 60 years of age and 365 over 65 years of age. If I take a group of four I find that there are more than 25 per cent., and there are 30 per cent. over 65 who really ought to be certified as senile, but are certified as insane. I seek in this Bill nothing more than to have the stigma removed. It would fail in its purpose if it were not followed up by strong administrative action to take the 25 per cent. and regroup and reclassify them in one group. Instead of Woodilee Mental Hospital we should have Lenzie Eventide Home and the stigma of residence, nomenclature and certification removed. I beg the House to give me permission to introduce this Bill.
I wish to oppose the Bill. In doing so I do not want to refer to anything that may be irrelevant, but anyone with hospital experience knows very well that the very thing which my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) wishes to avoid is one of the difficulties which is likely to arise. My hon. Friend is introducing a Bill
She does not advocate the abolition of mental institutions but, instead, she speaks of the"to permit in Scotland the reception into and maintenance in mental hospitals and similar institutions …"
That means that we are still to have the entry of the aged into mental homes. We are to have the difficulty of making a home for aged people and in the same home there are to be those who are mentally certified. In other words, we are to have the aged father and the aged mother, who are not mentally certified, put into a hospital where there will be certified cases, so the stigma will remain. My hon. Friend's idea is good, if segregation is intended, but this is not a proposal for segregation. It is for the continuation of an evil that is already in existence. It does not remove the evil. We want to get rid of the system of aged and infirm people being placed in mental institutions. I have some knowledge of this matter because, for at least 25 years, I had experience of Poor Law administration, and I have continued that experience as a member of the local asylums committee. What the Bill proposes would be an entirely wrong procedure. We had a case only a few weeks ago which gave us great difficulty, of a person who was aged and suffering from senile decay. She was a very respected person with children. The stigma of the mother having to go into a mental institution of this description was created simply because we had not a proper place for aged people. The system by which mental and non-mental cases are all put together in the same institution is a disgrace. Segregation is absolutely essential. I am not opposed in principle to the creation of proper homes with proper care for aged people. When one has passed into the later period of life, having given good service to the nation and having had children, one deserves something better at the hands of the community than being placed in a mental institution. I am, therefore, opposed to the Bill, not because I think it is a step in the wrong direction, but because I think that the object it sets out to achieve cannot be attained in the way proposed. I have had practical experience of this matter, and I am fully convinced that the time has now arrived to set up special institutions for our aged people, quite apart from mental cases. The two classes of persons do not belong together."care and attention of senile persons without certification of insanity or lunacy."
Would my hon. Friend try to get his ideas into the Bill during the Committee stage?
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mrs. Jean Mann, Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton, Colonel Gomme-Duncan, Mr. Niall Macpherson. Mr. McInnes, Mr. Hector Hughes, and Mr. Bence.
Care Of Senile Persons (Scotland) Bill
"to permit in Scotland the reception into and maintenance in mental hospitals and similar institutions for the purpose of care and attention of senile persons without certification of insanity or lunacy; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid," presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time upon 25th April, and to be printed. [Bill 83.]