asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in the light of the fact that the mentally handicapped are becoming increasingly the responsibility of the social rather than the health services, if he will make a statement on his policy of protecting health spending but making those local authorities responsible for social services institute cutbacks in spending and standards of service.
The overriding need to reduce public expenditure and the Government's commitments to the NHS and certain other services, have made it inevitable that the previous Administration's planned level of expenditure on the personal social services should be decreased. Nevertheless, it is for local authorities to decide on the eventual distribution of their expenditure between services, in the light of local needs and conditions. We have made it clear that services for the most vulnerable, including the mentally handicapped, should be protected as far as possible. The allocation in 1980–81 of joint finance, which contributes significantly to the provision of community services for the mentally handicapped, is being maintained at the enhanced level announced by the previous Administration.