The consultative document on priorities on health and personal social services suggested priority in the home help service which would entail an average growth in total of 2 per cent. per annum over the next years 1975–76 to 1979–80.
My right hon. Friend and I are now reviewing this and other proposals in the consultative document in the light of comments received and more up-to-date financial information. We shall where necessary issue revised advice later in the year, but in the meantime my right hon. Friend has suggested that the general strategy should be to protect field and domiciliary services, of which home helps are a part, at the expense, where necessary, of other services.
Does the Minister realise that if he destatutorised the home help service in urban areas and encouraged self-help groups of mothers and community organisations to care for their neighbours, it would be cheaper and better, and would transfer community responsibility to the neighbourhood itself?
I think that both ideas should be pursued—a statutory home help service and the good neighbour scheme of my right hon. Friend, which is designed to do just what the hon. Member has suggested.
Does my hon. Friend not agree that the home help service has done more to keep elderly and disabled people within the community than any other single factor? Therefore, will he decide to spend a substantially larger sum of money on preserving and expanding this vital service?
Are we to take it that the Minister is standing by the statement in the circular to local authorities and social services that there will not be any significant increase in real terms in available resources in the next few years, and that this applies to the home help service as well as other welfare services?
The question of allocating money between various welfare services is a matter for the local authorities to decide. Next year the amount available for expenditure in personal social services will increase by 1½ per cent. to 2 per cent.