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Richard Younger-Ross: I hope that we can welcome the Minister to Devon, wherever he is going. I am sure that he will tell us.

The Minister has referred to small percentage increases in what the Government have provided. According to the figure that I quoted, county councils are spending between 50 and 100 per cent. above SSA. That is not 3 per cent., 4 per cent. or 6 per cent.; it is a massive sum, and it needs to be addressed.

Mr. Lammy: One must be careful in comparing SSAs per capita. Allocations are based on the weighted proportion of the population, which is different in different areas. It is up to councils to make their own assessments and choose where to allocate their funds according to the nature of the formula and how it affects their areas. That is the same throughout the country. But I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, and of course Hansard is available to those in other Departments.

Mrs. Browning: Devon's difficulty is that it has had to put more money into children's services because it must fulfil its statutory obligations first.

Mr. Lammy: I note what the hon. Lady says, but I need to make some progress. As I have said, we have had a formula for some time based on particular groups in the area. It is up to individual councils to decide where to allocate their money, but a review is in progress and we must await its outcome.

The Government's policy is to promote independence for older people wherever we can, and to enable them to remain in their own homes whenever possible. That is what the people concerned and their families tell us they want. The number of people receiving intensive care and support in their own homes has increased by 6 per cent. in the last year, which is an excellent achievement.

Clearly we continue to need residential accommodation, but we must not make the mistake of judging the success of Government policy simply by looking at the number of people in residential care and nursing homes. Our policies are designed to ensure that people can live in their own homes with the appropriate support. The Government aim to provide that support whenever possible, balancing it with good, effective, high-quality residential accommodation where necessary. It is a matter of getting the balance right for local communities.

The care-home sector is very important. There is a real need for the authorities to do some long-term, sustainable planning. It is important for local-authority commissioners—with their partners, including providers—

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to have a joint and transparent strategy that is clear about how it is intended to provide care and support for local people in future.

Last October, the Government announced that they would give local councils an extra £300 million over two years to tackle delayed discharges from hospital—or, as the hon. Member for Teignbridge described it, bed- blocking.

Richard Younger-Ross: Bed-locking.

Mr. Lammy: I am sorry—bed-locking.

The extra money was targeted at the councils that needed it most. The first £100 million has been given to local councils, and we have been monitoring how they have been choosing to spend it. More than half the money has been spent on care home places, but it is noticeable that that is not the only way in which those on the front line have chosen to spend it.

Some councils are increasing intermediate care to enable more people to leave hospital and regain their independence in their own homes. Many have increased the provision of intensive home care support, so that more

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people can be supported in their own homes and do not need to enter residential care. Each of the schemes not only allows councils to exceed their targets for reductions in delays and enables people to leave hospital when they are ready to do so, but highlights the scope that exists within social care for supporting those who cannot live independently.

As Members will know, there has been a small loss of care home beds since 1997. Although 50,000 were deregistered, during the same period over 33,000 beds entered the care home market, making a loss of just 17,000. That is, of course, still a loss, but what is more important is that there is still spare capacity. The carehome market peaked in 1996, when there were too many beds to be sustainable in the long term. Indeed, the recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation goes as far as to suggest that the decline in care home capacity should be welcomed.

The debate has given the House a welcome opportunity to discuss an important issue—

The motion having been made after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

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