Education (Handicapped Children)

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th March 1973.

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Photo of Mr Neil McBride Mr Neil McBride , Swansea East 12:00 am, 19th March 1973

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the number of mentally and physically handicapped children in Wales being educated in special schools; and what Government legislation exists, or is proposed, to ensure the fullest possible education for all memtally or physically handicapped children in Wales.

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

Four thousand and eight-five pupils in January 1972. The Education Acts, the Education (Handicapped Children) Act 1970 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 enable local education authorities to make adequate educational provision for handicapped children.

Photo of Mr Neil McBride Mr Neil McBride , Swansea East

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that it was the Tory organisation Progress for Economic and Social Toryism which urged the then Leader of the Opposition in 1968 that he should do much more for these children than was already being done? He promised to do so but he has not carried out that promise. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that there will be no unnecessary segregation of these children, that their teachers will have minimum standards of education, that adjustment to work units will be provided and that he will end in Wales the appalling lack of concern for them?

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman's description of the lack of concern in the last part of his supplementary question. He will have read the recent White Paper "Education: A Framework for Expansion". He will know that it provides for an increase in the capital investment resources available for the replacement and renewal of special schools. For Wales that means for 1976–77 double the present allocation. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall continue to give priority to accepting programmes for the further development of facilities for handicapped children.

Photo of Mr Alec Jones Mr Alec Jones , Rhondda West

If there is no lack of concern regarding this problem, can the Secretary of State indicate the size of the problem? How many of these children are not going to school? Unless we know this, it is impossible to say whether enough is being done.

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an answer without notice. In addition to special schools, local education authorities frequently provide special educational treatment for the less severely handicapped children in primary schools. In addition to the figures I gave to the hon. Gentleman in answer to his Question, accommodation for an additional 1,360 full-time places is already under construction or included in the current building programme.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

I accept that for a number of years there has been increased interest in a more substantial direction of resources to meet this problem. However, will the Secretary of State pay particular attention to the need for greater concentration in the development of special places in secondary schools in Wales for mentally and physically handicapped children? At present this need is not being met in most areas in Wales.

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

That is something which I shall be happy to consider.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock , Bedwellty

While I welcome the increasing trend to integrate these unfortunate children in the normal educational sphere, may I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman realises concerning the 4,000 whom he has identified as being handicapped and in need of special education that there is totally inadequate provision for residential education for severely handicapped children? Will he set his mind to the expansion of the residential sector?

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

Yes, certainly. Obviously the situation varies in different places. Last Friday I went to a special school in North Wales where the accommodation and treatment were absolutely superb. It is our wish to ensure that inadequate accommodation and facilities are improved.

Photo of Mr Brynmor John Mr Brynmor John , Pontypridd

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that when I asked him for the figures for Wales of those suffering from specific disabilities he was unable to provide them? He said that his Department did not keep such figures. Is not a cardinal point in the provision of care for these children the collection of statistics which will enable us to see whether adequate provision is being made? What is he doing about the practice of the Welsh Office in this direction?

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

Statistics would to a great extent have to be obtained from local authorities. I shall certainly see whether it is possible to get better statistics than we have at present.