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Private Homes (Medical Care Ofex-Hospital Patients)

Volume 960: debated on Friday 15 December 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the supervision taking place in small private homes looking after people receiving medical benefit and who are immediate ex-hopsital patients; and whether, in view of the loss of life at a home at Clacton-on-Sea housing ex-mental health patients, he is satisfied with existing safety arrangements for such homes.

I assume the hon. Member is referring primarily to people who have been discharged from mental illness and mental handicap hospitals and who have some continuing disability.Social service authorities have a duty to provide social work support to people who are or have been suffering from mental disorder: they have a duty to such people whether they live at home, or find lodgings in private boarding houses that have not sought to specialise in the care of former patients, or are accommodated in homes which do so specialise. In addition, an authority's mental welfare officers are empowered to inspect any non-hospital premises in which a mentally disordered person is living if they have reasonable cause to believe that the person concerned is not under proper care. In guidance to authorities since 1976, my Department has repeatedly emphasised that care of the mentally ill and mentally handicapped should be given priority in the use of resources. I am aware that different social services authorities carry out this function in different ways and with differing degrees of effectiveness, often reflecting pressures on their resources. But I shall continue to urge both health and local authorities to improve these services.As regards specialised accommodation, under the National Assistance Act 1948 and the Mental Health Act 1959, private residential homes and hostels whose sole or main object is to provide accommodation for people suffering from mental disorder must be registered by the relevant local authority. The authority must satisfy itself as to the suitability of staff, services, facilities and premises. The authority is empowered to authorise someone to enter and inspect any premises which are used, or believed to be used, as a home for the mentally disordered. I am currently reviewing the registration requirements for both voluntary and private accommodation for various groups of vulnerable people, including the mentally disordered.I am looking urgently into the circumstances of the fire at Clacton, including any lessons the fire may have for our review of the registration requirements. I shall write to the hon. Member as soon as I have all the relevant facts and have been able to study their implications.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many homes in England and Wales are housing more than five people who are immediate ex-hospital patients and in receipt of medical benefits.

The information is not available, but I expect to form some estimate of the number of such establishments in the course of the review of the provisions governing the registration of voluntary and private homes, under social services legislation, which is already in hand.