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Social Services (Expenditure)

Volume 975: debated on Tuesday 11 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has received representations from local authority directors of social services about their budget for 1980–81.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the majority of directors of social services are appalled at his insistence that the recipients of social services—the elderly and the sick—have to pay a disproportionate share of the cost of the tax cuts that the Government have given to the wealthy? When will the right hon. Gentleman standup in the Cabinet and fight for the poorest sections of the community?

Perhaps I may commend to the hon. Gentleman and those on behalf of whom he has asked his question an article in Social Work Today at the end of October by a young residential social worker, Mr. Keith White. He says:

"it is deplorable to argue that the social services are being run as efficiently and economically as possible and that therefore nothing can be streamlined. This is naïve and untrue. There are glaring examples of inefficient administration and delivery of the social services."

Will the Secretary of State admit that his disgraceful decision to abolish the Personal Social Services Council was taken because the council was ably pointing out the detrimental effects of the cuts in social services? From whom will the Government get advice on social services—and they are badly in need of advice—now that they have decided to abolish the body set up by the present Secretary of State for Industry?

The impression that I have formed in the past six months is that the Government are not short of advice on the personal social services. We have to see whether we are getting that advice in the most efficient and effective way and without undue overlapping. The Personal Social Services Council has had a number of years of experience and I have concluded that we can probably get advice through other, professional, channels as effectively, and perhaps more effectively. If a body has not proved itself to be essential, I do not believe that the public ought to go on paying for it.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the British Association of Social Workers, of which Social Work Today is the journal, is launching a massive campaign against the Government's cuts in social services? I am a member of the association, which is horrified that many elderly people will probably die this winter who would have stayed alive if the Government had not come to power.

I commend to the hon. Gentleman a further proposition put by Mr. White in his article:

"In the wake of the social work strikes and the emotional harm they inflicted on clients, doesn't the present demand for compassion on the part of others have that hint of hypocrisy?"

I am sure that in issuing the directive to the directors of social services my right hon. Friend had in mind that the problem is that these departments are heavily over laden with administrative personnel. Will he state that the action of the Government in asking for cuts in the social services is principally directed towards administrative personnel and not at the elderly and the sick?

My hon. Friend will know that in paragraph 38 of the White Paper we said that the Government expected that savings would, as far as possible, be made by further increases in efficiency. I hope that both elected members and professional heads of departments are doing their utmost to achieve that.