Dobson denies call to scrap care in community

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The Independent Online
A weekend report that care in the community was to be scrapped was yesterday repudiated by Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health.

He told a BBC Radio 5 Live phone-in that there was a substantial minority of people who were either dangerous, or made such a nuisance of themselves that they needed 24-hour supervision - but that did not mean, as the Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday, that the entire care in the community scheme was to be abolished.

"We have been looking at the care in the community policy," Mr Dobson said. "I have always believed, even when we were in Opposition, that it worked for a large number of people but it didn't work for a substantial minority.

"They have been put on the streets, in effect, left to look after themselves, were very, very vulnerable from their own point of view, could be at least an awful nuisance to their neighbours and other people in the street and round about, and in some cases were actually dangerous...

"We have to look at it again: there are some people who are not receiving 24-hours supervision and care at the moment who need it and we're going to have to provide it."

He said he felt that the line had been drawn in the wrong place. "I think they thought that virtually everybody could cope on their own. I think there was a feeling, as we approach the end of the 20th century, people would be able to cope a bit better - but people who couldn't cope, couldn't cope."

Some of them posed a real danger; others were a nuisance to neighbours. "I think people are entitled to walk down the street where they live without being confronted by people who frighten them," he said.

But Mr Dobson added: "We need to look at this right across the spectrum - from people who are just a bloody nuisance to people who may be a danger and against whom legal action needs to be taken."

One of the health ministers, Paul Boateng, is currently reviewing mental health law, and proposals will be brought forward for consultation before any change is introduced.