To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received regarding the funding arrangements for local authority community care.
We have received many representations about the new arrangements for funding community care outlined in our White Paper "Caring for People".
Is the Minister satisfied that the concept of community care is being implemented in our communities when local government is suffering from the imposition of the poll tax and in many instances bizarre calculations of the standard spending assessment have been made? The SSAs do not take into account local needs in areas with large numbers of elderly people. Elderly people have particular problems in terms of mental illness. Is the Minister aware that in some areas local hospitals have had to turn away people with mental problems who need mental care because the facilities for them are not adequate due to lack of funding? Will the Minister ensure that the necessary funding and commitment is given? We want action and results, not promises.
Many local authorities are making good progress in drawing up their plans for care in the community. We are having discussions with the local authority associations about the precise nature of the funding which will be required when those plans come into effect.
Is my hon. Friend aware that Inward, which does admirable work in my constituency for ex-drug users, is worried about the new funding rate? I have written to my hon. Friend today about that. Can she do something to ensure that the valuable and unglamorous work that that organisation does is not in any way frustrated?
I should like to reassure my hon. Friend that many voluntary organisations which over many years have had a precarious financial base, will have their position safeguarded under the community care plans. Not only will the district health authority have to look to the health needs of the local population, but the local authority, in drawing up its community care plans, will need to see how especially needy groups can have their needs met. If my hon. Friend has any further difficulties, no doubt we can discuss the matter further.
Will the Minister list for the House those organisations which support the Goverments's stance not to ring-fence money for community care?
I am unable to list them at this moment, but I will let the hon. Gentleman have a reply. The key point about ring fencing is that it essentially undermines local accountability. I hope that the hon. Gentleman wants to see that the money set aside for community care is put to good effect. Local authorities have well safeguarded their personal social services spending over the years. It has risen by 38 per cent. I do not believe that one needs to undermine the basic principle of local Government accountability to achieve the end that we both share.