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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am very well acquainted with the figures to which the noble Lord refers. At the heart of the problem of dealing with disadvantaged men and families is the need to provide work for as many people as possible. Since the Government came to power just under 1 million new jobs have been created. Youth unemployment is an incredibly important aspect of the problem to which the noble Lord refers. The New Deal for the under-25s has put on to work 400,000 people, of whom 72 per cent are men. The working families' tax credit is aimed at those who have not worked for a long time and
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that a few years ago it was reported that the Equal Opportunities Commission had nearly as many cases involving men as women? Can the Minister indicate whether that pattern has continued or been repeated?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the law outlaws discrimination against both men and women. I would be very, very surprised if the activities of the EOC were directed much more towards men than women. However, I shall obtain the figures and write to the noble Lord.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that the aim of the Department for Education and Employment to reduce the number of children excluded from school, who by and large are boys, is likely to be the most effective initiative to socialise young men?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree that to deal with exclusions from school is an incredibly important way to help young men. It is dealing with the problem right from the start that makes the difference, and as to that I entirely share the views of my noble friend.
Lord Addington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the major problems here is the cultural shift away from traditional male-dominated types of employment that involve physical strength? The jobs which have replaced them tend to require academic skills or are of low status. Should we not concentrate on that cultural aspect which makes groups of traditionally working-class men very much less susceptible to the new job opportunities?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am not sure that the shift in jobs prejudices men to the extent that the noble Lord suggests. For example, virtually all the growth in computing occupations is filled by men. Although I agree that some consideration should be given to the issues raised by the noble Lord in relation to the new kinds of jobs, it is not all one way.
Baroness Young: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord explain further how the Government are to deal with some very serious statistics that have been identified? Boys fall about 11 per cent behind girls at GCSEs, and they also fall behind at A-level. There is considerable evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, pointed out, that in families without fathers boys are seriously handicapped. It is not a question of money but of having a father in the home.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, if by chance the Government change their mind and appoint a Minister for men will they ensure that that individual, unlike the Minister for Women, can tell the difference between private and public education?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the funding of hospices is a matter for local decision. Successive guidance has made clear to the NHS its responsibilities for commissioning palliative care services to meet the assessed health needs of their local communities.
Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is he aware that, for example, in 1999-2000 in the Yorkshire group of the voluntary hospice movement there was a fall in NHS funding of hospices which varied between 1 and 5 per cent, depending on the particular health authority concerned? Is my noble friend also aware of growing concern in the hospice movement that there may be even greater variation once the responsibility for funding is transferred to primary care groups and trusts? Is it possible to have an earmarked percentage funding of all hospices across the board?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords accept that the work of hospices is invaluable to the country. At the moment the NHS provides about 31 per cent of the revenue funding of hospices. I accept that there is a variation in the funding of individual hospices which very much reflects both local circumstances and the individual funding positions of those hospices. I believe that the best way round such problems is for every health authority to develop a palliative care strategy which enables these kinds of debates to take place at local level. I am sure that as a result of those debates satisfactory conclusions can be reached between individual hospices, health authorities and primary care groups.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the noble Lord is well aware of the concern of Members of this House about the funding of hospices, particularly since the end of ring-fenced funding six years ago. He is also aware that many noble Lords do not believe that the health improvement programme will necessarily lead to the level of hospice funding that is required. In the debate on this subject on 1st March the Minister promised that the decision-making process of health authorities would be reviewed. Can the noble Lord tell the House what progress he is making in that respect?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we believe that the development by every health authority of a palliative care strategy, aligned with a health improvement programme, is the way to ensure an agreed programme of support at local level, where the particular needs of hospices can be discussed alongside the development of palliative care services within the NHS. Since that debate I understand that one-third of health authorities have not yet developed those strategies. We shall make absolutely clear to health authorities that we expect those strategies to be developed as soon as possible.
The Duke of Norfolk: My Lords, before I ask my question, I should mention that my wife founded a charity called Help the Hospices which provides a meeting place for hospices in London near King's Cross. It was opened by Her Majesty the Queen the other day. It also holds conferences and trains people in the hospice movement. My question relates to funding. In the voluntary sector only 30 per cent of the expenses are covered by the state. Does the Minister agree that it should be 40 or 50 per cent? As has been said, for children's hospices the figure is only 5 per cent. Again, that should be 40 or 50 per cent. The Government simply must contribute a greater sum to the hospice movement than they do now.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, certainly I pay tribute to Help the Hospices because over the years it has done an invaluable job of work. I believe that it is difficult to say what the exact level of NHS support for hospices should be. As the noble Duke says, the current figure is 31 per cent. It is a matter on which decisions must be made locally. The situation at each hospice is different and is best discussed at local level between the health service and the hospice. The development of a palliative care strategy and agreement on a health improvement programme within each health authority area provide the best way forward in dealing with those issues.
Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, invaluable though the work of the hospice movement is, many people who are dying and the people who look after them would prefer that to take place in their own homes? Therefore, does he agree that we must consider also the support given in providing palliative care in a domiciliary setting?
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there are very few hospices for children? Because of that, parents, often with other children, must travel long distances. Can he help with the funding of the travelling expenses of those parents and perhaps encourage more hospices to be established locally?
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