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Volume 885: debated on Tuesday 28 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she is satisfied with the development of the social services in Sheffield, in the light of the last report of the old Sheffield social services department, a copy of which has been sent to her.

This is an excellent report, which reveals pressures on the Sheffield social services department which are common to many authorities. It is impossible to be satisfied while needs are unmet; but it is clear that the former authority sought to deploy the resources available to it as effectively as it could. The new authority is, I believe, pursuing the same realistic aim within the expenditure and manpower ceiling which the Government have had to set.

My hon. Friend has highlighted the alarming picture of under-staffing and inadequate resources for social service provision that the report shows for Sheffield. Will he see to it, so far as he can, that when resources are available they are diverted to the deprived areas of that city? What has happened to the 10-year plan for the development of social services in Sheffield that was prepared for his Department?

We are encouraging local authorities to plan on a 10-year cycle, and we have retained the plans. There are very few hon. Members who are not aware of the strong pressure on social services departments. It is claims on resources, not least the problem of housing, which put tremendous pressure on them. We shall do the best we can with the limited resources at our disposal.

Will my hon. Friend take steps to prevent the gamble whereby the area in which one lives determines the sort of social services one receives? Will he get my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to take powers to put in commissioners to take over social service functions where local authorities are not carrying out the provisions of the Alf Morris Act?

The whole question of local authority independence and of putting in commissions is highly contentious. My hon. Friend will be aware of the view we took on this issue in another aspect of local government powers. We shall continue to use our powers of persuasion and to issue circulars of guidance. We shall, hopefully, rely on giving advice.