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Voluntary Work

Volume 979: debated on Tuesday 26 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give an assurance that he will make good any local authority cuts in support for voluntary work.

Has the Minister considered advising local authorities of the advantages of putting out to tender some of the social services that they carry out themselves, such as home helps and meals on wheels? Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be better to contract out to private enterprise some of those services, on the basis that it will be better and cheaper in the long run?

The second part of that question is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I am convinced that local authorities will consider the vital role of the voluntary sector in helping to keep people out of residential care, through the provision of domiciliary services, the development of informal care and in providing whatever support that they can.

Does the Minister realise that, whatever the importance of voluntary service—and it is very great —it is no substitute for professional service?

We believe that there is tremendous scope for a partnership between professional support and the voluntary sector. Going round the country, I am delighted to see the ways in which many local authorities are making use of the untapped resources of the voluntary sector to meet areas of real need in the community.

Is my hon. Friend worried that the local authority social services people will cut services and output from their departments but will not cut their own numbers, thus producing an inflationary rise in the money cost of these services?

That question may be more appropriately put to the Department of the Environment tomorrow. We have urged local authorities to try to protect, as far as possible, certain areas of activity that affect the elderly, children and the handicapped, and to use the resources of the voluntary sector to meet those needs, where possible.

Is the Minister aware of the representations that his Department received from the Association of Directors of Social Services, which refer to the cutbacks that are being forced on its members, not only in their own services but in the financial support that they have willfingly given to voluntary welfare organisations up and down the country?

When the Minister says that it would not be practicable to adopt the idea put forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen), is he aware that such powers are vested in government by way of the urban programme?

The Department has maintained the value of its grants to the voluntary sector this year. We hope to increase those grants next year, as evidence of the importance that we attach to the voluntary sector. I have read the report of the Association of Directors of Social Services. I was disappointed about the lack of reference to the use of voluntary organisations as a means of helping to meet the difficult circumstances that it faces.