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Nursing and Residential Homes

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:19 pm on 3rd April 2001.

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Photo of John Hutton John Hutton Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (Health) 12:19 pm, 3rd April 2001

I congratulate all hon. Members who have contributed to what has been a well-informed debate. A lot of common sense has been spoken, but I shall refer specifically to what was said by Mr. Hammond because many of his figures were wrong and his arguments were less than persuasive.

In essence, Mr. Hughes raised three related issues. He referred to the need for adequate funding and asked whether the funding available to Southwark council would be sufficient this year. He also referred to his concern about existing registration and regulation arrangements, particularly during the interim period between now and April next year when the National Care Standards Commission comes into operation. He then asked some important questions about training arrangements.

I agree with much of what was said during the debate about quality through registration and inspection being an important part of the overall equation, but we must not lose sight of the fact that about 80 per cent. of those who work in social care have no recognised qualifications. Given the importance of the care sector, the essential infrastructure of our wider care system is unacceptable and we must improve the training and qualifications of the social care work force.

Funding is central to everything that has been said during the debate. The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge rightly anticipated, as he usually does, that I would read out a long list of statistics about spending on social services. In fact, I shall not do that today because the figures are on the public record and he and other hon. Members are aware that by 2003-04 the money available for social services spending will increase from just under £10 billion to just under £12 billion. That is a substantial increase. Mr. Gale, who spoke well on the subject, particularly when requesting more money, will anticipate what I am about to say. We are making substantial additional resources available. I can tell them, for example, the amount of extra spending that is available for Kent this year. The arguments about additional resources to fund not only national minimum standards but the wider range of services commissioned by local authorities would stack up a lot better if they would say that they would match the resources that we are making available over the next three years.