HC Deb 23 January 2002 vol 378 cc967-9W
Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Health.

(1) if he will meet representatives from Mencap to discuss care problems for children and adults with severe learning difficulties; and if he will make a statement; [29074]

(2) what steps he is taking to improve domiciliary care support for families caring for children and adults with profound and multiple learning difficulties; [29073]

(3) what steps he is taking to improve services for children and adults with profound and multiple learning difficulties following the publication of the White Paper, Valuing People. [29075]

Jacqui Smith

Our strategy for improving services for people with learning disability is set out in the White Paper, "Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century", published in March 2001. It is the first White Paper on the subject for 30 years and takes a cradle to grave, cross-Government look at services. It is based on four key principles—rights, independence, choice, and inclusion. The proposals in "Valuing People" are for all children, young people, adults and older people with learning disabilities, and their families. They cover people with severe and profound learning disabilities through to people with mild or moderate learning disabilities and people with learning disabilities from across the autistic spectrum.

Learning disability partnership boards in each local authority area are responsible for overseeing implementation of the "Valuing People" proposals at local level. Boards consist of representatives of a wide range of statutory and voluntary sector interests, including social services, health, education, employment, and housing, as well as people with learning disabilities and carers. We will be looking to boards to ensure that the strategies they develop adequately reflect the needs of all learning disabled adults in their area. We will be looking closely at the joint investment plan boards have to produce by the end of this month to ensure that this happens.

Action to implement the proposals in "Valuing People" for improving the lives of children and young people with learning disabilities is being taken forward through the Quality Protects programme. Disabled children are now a priority area in this programme to transform children's social services. From 2001–02 to 2003–04 £60 million has been earmarked for services for disabled children and their families—£15 million this year and 2002–03 and £30 million in 2003–04.

We are also improving support for profound and multiple learning disabled children as part of other programmes to improve service for all disabled children: The implementation of the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 from 1 April 2001 is allowing direct payments to be made to parents of disabled children, giving greater choice and flexibility in how they receive services. From June 2001, we have funded the charity Contact a Family by £500,000 per annum to run a new National Information Centre for families with disabled children. This includes a national telephone help and advice line. We have increased its funding to the Family Fund Trust which provides grants to help reduce the stress on families with severely disabled children. In 2000–01, the Government contributed funding of £25.4 million. This funding has increased by £1 million this year and will increase by £2 million in 2002–03 and £3 million in 2003–04. We have recently announced the development of a National Service Framework (NSF) for children. This will set out to tackle inequalities, raise standards, and reduce unacceptable variations in NHS and social services. Services for disabled children will be a key part of the NSF.

Mencap contributed to the development of "Valuing People" through membership of two of the working groups which took forward the early work. It continues to be involved in the implementation of some of its proposals and its chief executive is a member of the Learning Disability Task Force which has been set up to oversee implementation at national level. Ministers and departmental officials regularly meet representatives of Mencap and discuss aspects of "Valuing People"; I hope to meet Mencap representatives again on 5 March.