§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Alastair Burt)
Several representations have been received recently, from both individuals and representative bodies.
§ Ms. Eagle
Is the Minister aware that the cost of a weekly place in a residential or nursing care home as calculated by his Department falls up to £50 short of the real cost? Can he comment on the fact that the Government's hope that the cost-care gap will be made up by charitable donations is pie in the sky, given both the scale and length of the recession and the fact that the National Lotteries Bill will reduce charitable income even more? What will the Government do to put payments for care places on a more secure footing?
§ Mr. Burt
I am sure that the hon. Lady will he pleased to know that expenditure on people in homes has increased enormously since 1979 from the £10 million spent then to £2.5 billion spent now. The last uprating increased the amount going into homes by over the rate of inflation—by about 3.6 per cent. The hon. Lady will 12 appreciate that no Government can make a commitment to pay all the fees up to the full limit because that would lead to the abuse that there was before.
The amount of money spent by the Government on people receiving benefits in homes will stay at the level of commitment that we have now. The new system of community care will also ensure that that amount of money is best spent on domiciliary care, the independent sector or local authority care. I am sure that local authorities will administer the new system with the care with which it has been administered up to now.
§ Mr. Willetts
Is my hon. Friend aware that the main concern among private providers of residential accommodation in nursing homes is the risk of a vendetta by left-wing local authorities from 1 April, who, for purely ideological reasons, will refuse to finance the cost of accommodation in such homes?
§ Mr. Burt
My hon. Friend will be aware that matters relating to the registration of homes are the responsibility more of the Department of Health than of this Department, but I am aware of the concerns already expressed to Departments about such matters. The quality of care delivered to the elderly has been immeasurably increased over the past decade partly because of the quality of care in the independent sector, and the way in which that has increased and encouraged the delivery of quality care in the local authority sector. The quality of care given to elderly people by all providers is substantially better than it was a decade or 20 years ago.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
Is the Minister aware that the Government have forced local authorities to get rid of their beds? The Government have put enormous pressure on people to go into private homes. There is a real fear that after 1 April many of the most damaged people will not be able to pay for their accommodation in the private sector because of the Government's actions and the lack of money available to local authorities. How does the Minister satisfy those people? There are many who are terrified of what will happen to their elderly, who in many instances are mentally handicapped.
§ Mr. Burt
Substantial resources have been placed into the community care system to cover situations such as those to which the hon. Lady has drawn attention. Before a new system comes into place, there are always concerns about what might happen on the actual day. We know that the amount of money put in and the degree of care exercised by local authorities will ensure, for the first time, that proper consideration is given to individual cases and all cases. This approach will ensure also that the available money is best spent to the benefit of everyone. I am sure that the hon. Lady would not want to return to a system where limited resources were poorly spent. I am convinced that the amount of money and the degree of care that will he exercised will ensure the success of the community care policy.