§ Mr. Latham
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement on the results of his Department in achieving the Government's policy programme since the reply of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) to the hon. Member for Mellon on 6 July 1981, Official Report, c. 28.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
The Government had made further considerable progress over the last year towards their objectives in health, personal social services and social security. In the NHS we have streamlined the management structure by abolishing area health authorities—matching local freedom of action with improved arrangements for planning, for accountability and for ensuring that resources are used effectively. Between 1978–79 and 1981–82 despite the economic recession we provided increases in resources of over 5 per cent. in health services and we are planning for further growth this year. As a result of this increase in resources, staff numbers have increased substantially—47,000 more in 1981 than 1979, most of them directly engaged in patient care. Developments in more specific areas include: a 29 per cent. real increase in joint finance between 1978–79 and 1981–82 and a further planned increase this year; the publication of a major consultative document—"Care in the Community"—exploring new ways of moving long-stay patients out of hospitals and back into their local communities; work on setting up three experimental NHS nursing homes—a new form of service for elderly people who do not need hospital care; planned expenditure of over £1, 100 million on 130 major new hospital developments over the next 10 years; a reduction o[...] nearly 10 per cent. in perinatal mortality—the biggest percentage fall in a single year since records began; the establishment of the Rampton hospital review board; a major—pioneering—campaign on the prevention of 379W rickets; a 33 per cent. increase in DHSS grants to voluntary bodies since 1978–79; and, the introduction of major reforming legislation on mental health and further development of intermediate treatment for young people in trouble.
In social security we have continued to make our contribution to overall reductions in public spending and the size of the Civil Service. At the same time, the November 1982 upratings fully protect benefits in relation to price levels and we are making good the 2 per cent. shortfall on last year's uprating. Therefore we are honouring our pledge to maintain the value of pensions and protect benefits for the needy.
We have also made resources available for some significant real improvements. The capital disregard for supplementary benefits is being raised by 25 per cent. from £2,000 to £2,500. Mobility allowance is no longer subject to tax and will again be raised in November by more than the rise in prices. The earnings limits for retirement pension and invalid care allowance are being increased as is the limit on therapeutic earnings for incapacity benefits. Occupational asthma has been added to the schedule of prescribed industrial diseases. We are continuing to press ahead with administrative improvements and reforms. The housing benefits and statutory sick pay schemes are now on the statute book. Benefits to unemployed people are being brought into tax from July. We are bringing in arrangements for paying benefits on request direct into bank account by automated credit transfer. The work of family doctors has been significantly lessened by the acceptance of self-certificated claims for benefit for the first week of sickness, which will save the issue of three million certificates in a full year. For the longer term we have published proposals for reforming the industrial injuries scheme in a way that will channel a greater proportion of its resources to the more severely disabled, and will implement these as soon as possible.