§ 13. Ms. Harman
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the percentage increase from 1979 to the latest available date of the number of private, not voluntary, residential care homes for the elderly.
§ Mr. John Patten
I assume the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) is referring to the proposal that has been put forward by the Social Care Association for a general review of residential care, which would not be confined to the private sector nor to the care of the elderly alone. We are currently consulting the local authority associations about this proposal, and I shall be meeting them later this week. As far as the number of private homes for elderly and disabled people is concerned, these have increased by 99.3 per cent. between 31 March 1979 and 31 March 1984.
§ Mr. Boyes
During the discussions, will the Minister take into consideration the fact that in the newly introduced regulations on board and lodging for people living in the voluntary sector the allowance is far too low? I understand that the Leonard Cheshire Homes, for example, have to raise over £1 million to carry on their services. Is not this attack on the elderly and disabled another example of the Government's hit and run philosophy?
§ Mr. Patten
It is no attack whatever on the elderly and disabled. My hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security has the issue under active consideration.
§ Ms. Harman
Is not the boom in private profit-making old people's homes being largely subsidised by the Department of Health and Social Security? Would not public money be better spent on allowing local councils to provide meals on wheels and home helps to enable people to stay in their own homes rather than on subsidising institutionalisation in private homes?
§ Mr. Patten
The private sector has an important part to play. We are also concerned about the public sector. The hon. Lady will be aware from the position in her own constituency, at Nye Bevan lodge old people's home. that there seems to be a substantial cover-up by Southwark borough council, which is not making information available to Opposition members of its social services committee. I believe that the hon. Lady is very keen on the disclosure of information. I hope that she will join me in pressing Southwark council to make all the information available.