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Community Care

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 3 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received regarding the policy of care in the community.

We receive many representations in correspondence and at regular meetings with organisations concerned with our plans for community care.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government believe that voluntary organisations have a major role to play in delivering policies on care in the community? Is she aware of the warm welcome that has been given to the policy of giving grants to voluntary organisations to deal with specific problems of drugs and alcohol?

I thank my hon. Friend. I am fully aware of the importance of encouraging voluntary organisations. We want a mixed economy of care for the frail and the vulnerable. I know of my hon. Friend's distinguished service in one such organisation. I can confirm that there has been a wide welcome for the announcement by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State last week that voluntary bodies concerned with drug and alcohol-related difficulties will receive special funding.

Does the Minister care to deny that every voluntary organisation concerned with disabled people condemns the Government's failure to provide adequate community care for mentally handicapped and mentally ill people? Does she deny also that thousands of those people have been denied adequate help and that the present situation is an absolute scandal?

The right hon. Gentleman's account far from resembles my experience. There has been a substantial improvement in the care of the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped in our community. If we contrast what is available now with what was available several years ago, the situation is striking and most impressive. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that more should be done. That is why I welcome the work that is being carried forward by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in the specific grant for mentally ill people. We believe that there is a special need for co-operation between health authorities and local authorities and that further work needs to be done.

I was informed that the hon. Gentleman's question 21 had been withdrawn. If that is not so take question 21 first.

With permission, I shall answer this question together with question 2 at 3.30 pm as it is one of the 32 questions on the Order Paper about self-governing trusts. Like you, Mr. Speaker, I believed that the question was unstarred. Obviously we were wrongly informed that the hon. Gentleman had withdrawn his question.