§ 3. Mr. Andrew Smith
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a further statement on income support entitlement in respect of elderly people living in private residential homes.
§ Mr. Newton
As I announced to the House on 28 March, I propose to make further substantial increases at a cost of £45 million from 13 August to the income support limits that apply to people in residential care and nursing homes. These are in addition to the increases in the limits which will take effect on 9 April and which are the largest increases since 1985, amounting to £100 million a year.
§ Mr Smith
Notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman's concessions last week, does he accept that many thousands of sick and elderly people face a considerable shortfall on their residential costs in nursing and residential homes? The survey carried out by the National Federation of 878 Housing Associations showed that one in five faced a shortfall of £60 a week or more. Is not it time that the Secretary of State acted to help those people, to stop them facing eviction and to end the needless worry to which his policies have subjected them?
§ Mr. Newton
I have taken action that I think will contribute to the hon. Gentleman's objective. I repeat the point that I made towards the end of our debate on the subject last week. Many of the bodies to which the hon. Gentleman referred—the National Federation of Housing Associations and any other voluntary and charitable bodies—have made it clear to me that, although they believe that there should be an increase in the limits, they do not expect the Government necessarily to make up the full difference between the charges that the homes levy and the current income support limits, because it is part of their policy to provide a higher standard of amenity than they think it reasonable to expect the taxpayer to pay for.
§ Sir George Young
My right hon. Friend's announcement last Wednesday was warmly received by those who run private residential homes and by the people who live in them. He will know that many wish to move to the new regime outlined last Wednesday as soon as practicable. Will my right hon. Friend say whether, if good progress is made in the current year in negotiating contracts between local authorities and private homes, income support can be raised in 1991–92 to the new levels envisaged in his statement?
§ Mr. Newton
I repeat what I said to my hon. Friend clearly last week: to the extent that we have good information about what local authorities are contracting to pay in advance of the next uprating due in April 1991, I shall, of course, ensure that that is taken into account in setting the limits for next year.
§ Mr. Meacher
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the £5 extra for elderly people in residential homes which he announced last week is little more than a gesture—merely the contribution to which he referred—given that the National Federation of Housing Associations survey found that in more than half of the homes the shortfall is now over £30 a week? If Conservative Back-Bench Members are satisfied with that, does not it show that they are far more concerned with propping up a Government on the ropes than with protecting 176,000 elderly and frail patients from eviction?
§ Mr. Newton
First, the hon. Gentleman neglected to acknowledge that the £15 extra is on top of the £10 increase that is about to take place, making £15 extra in all on the current limit of £140. That is an increase of significantly more than 10 per cent. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman failed to acknowledge that the major pressure is undoubtedly on nursing homes, in respect of which I announced a further increase of £10, making £20 in all.