We continue to encourage partnerships between social services departments and the voluntary sector, for example, by our support for the current series of regional meetings between statutory and voluntary organisations concerned with child care to discuss the practical implications of the move from residential to community-based services. In addition, we have in the past year introduced new schemes making grants available to voluntary organisations to encourage the further development of intermediate treatment, services for under-fives, and services for drug misusers.
I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. Does he agree that a great many people are prepared to use their considerable talents in the personal social services and that any expenditure by the Government is repaid time and time again in the benefits to those who are recipients of the services?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, there are some excellent examples in Norfolk, including the Norfolk children's project, which we have grant-aided. In my Department alone, grants to voluntary organisations have gone up from about £10 million in 1979–80 to something like £26 million this year. That is a very good record.
Is the Minister aware that the best thing he could do to encourage the role of the voluntary sector is to give it a greater degree of financial stability? The opportunities for volunteering scheme, welcome as it is, gives grants for only one year. There is no room for a professional career structure in that regime. Will he consider making the scheme last for more than one year at a time?
In general we are considering ways of giving voluntary organisations two or three years' stability where we can, but it is difficult for the Government to be absolutely sure what resources will be available a long time ahead. I take the point. We are also looking at the future of the opportunities for volunteering scheme.
Has my hon. Friend had time to notice the marvellous efforts of the Derbyshire-Macmillan continuing care appeal, which has raised £40 million throughout Derbyshire for the care of the terminally ill? Will he encourage other volunteer fund-raisers who wish to raise money to help in such cases to liaise carefully with the local authorities and the NHS so they do not add to the problems of such bodies but help to solve them?
How do the Government justify imposing a cut of 2·5 per cent. in the next year on personal social services when the Minister's Department says that 2 per cent. real growth is necessary each year simply to maintain existing standards, when there are more and more elderly pensioners each year and when, under this Government, elderly patients are being decanted out of closed geriatric wards and hospitals into the community? Does this not show that the Conservative concept of community care is forcing women out of employment to do unpaid caring of elderly dependants while the Government abdicate their responsibility?
I do not accept a word of that question from beginning to end. There is no question of the Government imposing a 2·5 per cent. cut. On the contrary, we give personal social services a 2 per cent. lead over other forms of expenditure in its allocations. If local authorities are making such a cut, it is their choice about priorities.