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Mental Handicap

Volume 171: debated on Tuesday 1 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will bring forward proposals to improve the availability and quality of day care services for the mentally handicapped.

Local authorities are primarily responsible for providing day services for mentally handicapped people. The recent social services inspectorate report, "Inspection of Day Services for People with a Mental Handicap", suggested a number of ways in which day services could be improved within existing resources.

Because of the haste to close mental handicap hospitals and discharge mentally handicapped people, because of the problems facing local authorities—with restrictions on financing and the fact that the money allowed to them is not ring-fenced and there is no guarantee that there will be a sufficient increase to allow for inflation—and because every pound spent above the level of assessment set by the Government under the poll tax arrangements for services for the mentally handicapped means a £4 increase in the poll tax, when does the Minister intend to do something to provide real services for the mentally handicapped?

There is no rush to close mental handicap hospitals. The closure programme and the discharge of patients back into the community from mental handicap hospitals is relatively slow. As for the transfer of resources from the Health Service to local authorities for patients discharged, we are looking at the future of joint finance—of finance passing from the Department of Health to the Department of the Environment—and we shall bring to the House in due course our proposals for ensuring adequate funding for such patients.