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Mentally Handicapped (Development Team)

Volume 958: debated on Monday 20 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what conclusions he has reached on the future of the development team for the mentally handicapped; and if he will make a statement.

this year I sought the views of field authorities and others on the operations of the development team for the mentally handicapped since it began work in 1976. Most of those consulted praised the work of the team, while making a number of suggestions for improvement. I am myself convinced, in the light both of these responses and of recent disquieting reports about problems affecting mental handicap services, that there remains an important role for the team in providing independent expert advice to the planners and providers of services for the mentally handicapped.I intend to make a number of changes now in order to strengthen the team's effectiveness and shall review the position again when we have had experience of the new pattern of operations in practice. First, I intend in future that the team should not only continue to visit authorities at their invitation, but that I should myself ask the team to visit a health authority where I think it deisrable. Second, I have asked the team to follow up all its visits, as a matter of routine, with the authorities concerned. Third, I wish to strengthen the team's operations in relation to the social services and shall be discussing this with representatives of the authorities concerned. Fourth, I propose to strengthen the team's administrative arrangements so that it will be able to report more quickly on the visits it makes. I am also reviewing the composition of the team's panel of experts in consultation with the director in order to ensure that the team disposes of all the expertise necessary to the fulfilment of its functions. Fifth, I propose that a closer working relationship should be developed between the team and the health advisory service/social work service.

Among the matters I shall be discussing with the directors of these bodies is the possibility of givin—a wider circulation than at present to reports on visits to services.

I should like in conclusion to record my gratitude to Dr. Simon and his colleagues for the good work they have done so far, and my confidence that they will continue under the new arrangements to provide a service of very great value both to the mentally handicapped and to those who work on their behalf.