Disability campaigners have blasted “disturbing and disempowering” new Scottish laws forcing direct payment and individual budget users to get criminal record checks on prospective employees.
Under the legislation, service users will have to seek an enhanced Disclosure Scotland check – the Scottish version of the Criminal Records Bureau – on employees, including personal assistants.
The British government resisted attempts to introduce a similar requirement in England and Wales last year, arguing that the purpose of direct payments and individual budgets was to put people in control of the care they received.
The Scottish law that came into force last week states that, although service users would not commit an offence if they chose to employ someone who was disqualified from working, apart from in child care posts, the council could withdraw the direct payments or individual budget if it did not agree with the suitability of the employee.
Sue Bott, executive director of the National Centre for Independent Living said the law went too far and could have implications for England. “While we want to ensure adults don’t find themselves in abusive situations these people are adults and need to be treated so. This is disturbing as where Scotland leads England follows.”
Chris Oswald, head of policy and communications at the Disability Rights Commission Scotland, agreed that the checks should not be mandatory. “The issue of mandatory checks should arise only if the person is deemed ‘vulnerable’. People in receipt of direct payments are not automatically ‘vulnerable’ and they should have control over the way in which they recruit their support staff.”
But Richard Curen, director of Respond, welcomed the laws. “Many people employ friends as personal assistants and can feel too embarrassed to ask someone for a check. Making enhanced disclosures a requirement removes this embarrassment.”
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