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Personal Social Services (Expenditure)

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what will be the percentage increase in expenditure in real terms on the personal social services between 1976–77 and 1977–78.

We are planning for an increase in current expenditure in England of about 1 per cent. in real terms and a decrease of 30 per cent. in capital expenditure. But I have increased from £8 million to £21 million the amount that health authorities may contribute to mutually beneficial social services schemes financed jointly with local authorities. The £21 million represents about 2 per cent. of overall local authority expenditure on the social services, and that will enable spending to be maintained at about the same level as last year.

Is it not a fact that demand on personal social services is expanding at over 2 per cent. per annum? Given that there is this pressure on personal social services, is the Secretary of State satisfied that he has the right priorities between expenditure on the National Health Service and expenditure on personal social services?

The Government planned for a 2 per cent. growth in current expenditure on personal social services. It is estimated that expenditure in 1976–77 reached the level planned for 1977–78. Because I was so worried that some services might slip, I increased by almost threefold the amount of funds available for joint financing. That has been welcomed by the local authorities.

I recognise my right hon. Friend's difficulty, but is he aware that many local authorities are neglecting the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act? Will he press all local authorities to aim at a 90 per cent. increase in expenditure under Section 2 of that Act, as envisaged in last year's priority document?

I shall be publishing shortly the results of the consultations on the consultative document. I am concerned about the extraordinary variation in performance between one local authority and another. The Minister with special responsibility for the disabled is frequently in touch with local authorities about this. I am anxious that some local authorities, as a result of events last Thursday, may be less prepared to look after the needs of disabled people than they were before.

While noting that the Secretary of State has just made a totally untrue allegation, may I ask him what encouragement he intends to give to voluntary organisations and self-help groups, which are springing up all round the country, to assist in the personal social services, which we regard as the mainspring for helping people who need the real help that we ought to give as a society?

Bearing in mind the hon. Lady's initial comment, having read the manifestos of a number of those Conservative candidates who were successful, I think that I have every reason to express concern because of the threats about cutting expenditure. However, to deal with the main part of the question, I agree with the hon. Lady. There is a very important rôle for voluntary organisations. That is why, in the budget for this year, I have increased by 60 per cent. the amount of money available from my Department to assist voluntary organisations.