Carers want a watchdog to monitor new policy

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Indy Politics
AN OMBUDSMAN for care in the community was called for yesterday, as hundreds of carers lobbied Parliament to voice fears about gaps in the new policy on its first day.

Martin Eede, chief executive of the National Schizophrenic Fellowship, the largest national voluntary organisation supporting people with severe mental illness, said: 'An ombudsman would represent the users of services and their families and would intervene on their behalf when things go wrong. He would have an overview of the services that need to be provided.'

Mr Eede said the NSF was filled with foreboding because of the financial constraints on local authorities, who took over responsibility for community care from the Department of Social Security yesterday.

'Community care could be a great success, or it could be a disaster. It depends largely on whether there is adequate funding. We could be facing a nightmare scenario.'

The implementation of community care was postponed for two years, partly because of fears that poll tax bills would be pushed up. The Government has made available to councils in England a total of pounds 565m in grants. Scotland is allocated pounds 61m and Wales pounds 37.5m.

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, told the carers who lobbied Parliament yesterday: 'Community care is not about the size of the cheque that comes to the local authority.' She said it also depended on the human beings involved, 'the neighbours, families and churches'.

But Eve Thompson, of the NSF, said: 'The size of the cheque is the most important thing. You cannot make bricks without straw. There are simply not the cash resources available for what needs to be done . . .'

The organisation also called for district health authorities to become the lead agency for the community care of people with severe mental illness.

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