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Mental Health Workers

Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

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26.

asked the Minister of Health what is the current shortage of mental health workers; what is this figure as a percentage of the total required; and what steps are being taken to remedy the shortage.

The unfilled need for mental health workers, though it cannot be estimated precisely, is certainly very large. The establishment of a National Council for Social Work Training, and the provision of additional training courses, ought to help.

Is the hon. Lady aware that the Mental Health Act recently put on the Statute Book will be largely ineffective so far as local authorities are concerned if we do not solve these problems? Can she say what steps are being taken to encourage these people by means of wage increases, improved working conditions and the like?

I agree with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. Practical steps are being taken. Two-year full-time training courses are being started in September at the London County Council North-West Polytechnic, at the City of Birmingham College of Commerce and the Liverpool College of Commerce. I understand that there has been an excellent response from would-be applicants, and the hon. Gentleman might like to know that a course is being arranged for Scotland too.

Can the hon. Lady give an assurance that legislation to set up a national council for social work training will be introduced early in the next Session of Parliament?

Legislation is to be introduced. For obvious reasons, I cannot give the undertaking which the hon. Gentleman seeks.

Will the hon. Lady reply to the last part of the supplementary question from my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton)? Is the Minister taking any initiative in the matter of pay and conditions? Has not it been shown in the case of other public servants that unless pay and conditions are improved, although recruits may be obtained, they cannot be retained?

As the hon. Gentleman should know, that is a matter for the appropriate Whitley Council.