Is the Minister aware that the average increase in private care home fees in the Wakefield district this year is 17 per cent., compared with a 3 per cent. increase in income support payments that the Government announced recently? Has the Minister examined the evidence sent to his Department by Age Concern, showing that a number of elderly retired people are having to return to work, to earn money so that they can contribute towards the care home fees incurred by even more elderly relatives? Is not it scandalous that, in addition, the Government propose to withdraw housing benefit from vast numbers of care home residents?
This year, after a tight survey period, we devoted the largest-ever increase to helping those in residential care and nursing homes. The Government are to be congratulated on that achievement. The limits on residential care homes rose by £45 per week between April 1985 and August of this year—by 41 per cent. against an inflation rate of 35 per cent. As to changes in housing benefit rules for those in residential care homes, they will apply almost overwhelmingly to those who have capital of between £8,000 and £16,000
Thousands of people will benefit as a result of these increases. The uprating has cost some £230 million and the increases range from £5 per week increase to £45 per week. This year we have rightly devoted the most significant resources to those people in nursing homes who have had the greatest increase in costs
How can the Minister possibly justify a mere £5 per week increase in income support for residents in residential homes when the Price Waterhouse survey shows that the average running and capital costs of such homes are £172 per resident per week, whereas he has increased income support to only £160 a week. How can he justify only increasing income support for nursing homes to £255 per resident per week when Price Waterhouse reveals that the average running and capital costs in those homes is £350 per resident per week? Is not it clear that the haemorrhage of bankruptcies and closures of homes will continue and that the Government, having encouraged homes to be built in the first place, will carry the responsibility for the inevitable eviction of frail and elderly people?
First, the increase of £5 per week this year should be set against an increase of £ 10 per week April and a further £5 per week in August, so the increase in the past year has been of the order of £20. We have produced the largest-ever increase in funds. Expenditure overall, as the hon. Gentleman knows, has increased from £10 million per year, which the Labour Government were spending when they went out of office, to £1·27 billion under this Government. We have shown our care for people in those circumstances and have demonstrated it with cash.