No Secrets consultation: Government expected to avoid law change

The No Secrets adult protection guidance consultation is expected to avoid introducing legislation on safeguarding, Community Care has learned.

The government’s review of adult protection policy, expected this month, will seek to revise the current guidance, despite longstanding calls for new laws from adult care directors and campaigners.

Push for legislation

Action on Elder Abuse is to push for primary legislation to protect older people when the consultation is published. It will argue that the “rush to personalisation” will mean “forcing elderly people away from legislatively protected services and into an unregulated environment governed only by guidance”.

Chief executive Gary Fitzgerald (right) told Community Care: “I would expect a consultation document to address the personalisation agenda, and the cash for care approach, and where safeguarding fits into that. It is also almost inevitable that the document has to address how far guidance can take us and the point at which you have to consider legislation.”

Fitzgerald also called for a debate on how professionals should intervene and “at what point intervention becomes unacceptable.”

Directors call

Dwayne Johnson, joint chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ older people’s network, said the document needed to spell out “how the statutory organisations would work in the context of guidelines”.

Other issues expected to be covered by the consultation include how adult protection is funded and how adult safeguarding fits into wider policies such as criminal justice, community safety and the wider safeguarding agenda.

Criminal justice

Robin Van den Hende, policy and campaigns officer for Respond, the Ann Craft Trust and Voice UK, said: “I am expecting a section on criminal justice agencies, prosecution and ensuring things are reported to the police. My feeling is that the consultation will ask if the local authorities should be the lead agency, when the police should be involved and how abuse is defined.”

The new guidance is expected in April 2009.

The No Secrets guidance published in 2000 by the Department of Health and Home Office laid down the first framework for responding to abuse of vulnerable adults in all settings. Under it, social services departments have the responsibility to lead adult protection services but the guidance has no legislative power. Since it was published, cases including the abuse of adults with learning disabilities in Cornwall, Sutton and Merton have led to calls for the guidance to be put on a statutory footing equal to child protection.

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