People who lack capacity face “rape, assault and exploitation” unless the government amends plans to extend direct payments to the group, adult protection charities have warned.
Mencap has also said the plans could leave people with profound and multiple learning disabilities at risk.
The warnings from the Ann Craft Trust, Respond and Voice UK came in identical responses to a consultation, which closed yesterday, on plans to place a duty on councils to offer direct payments to people who lack capacity. These include some people with late-stage dementia or profound and multiple learning disabilities.
Under the plans councils would need to appoint a “suitable person” to manage the payment, who would act in the user’s best interests.
If the suitable person was closely related to the user or a friend who had been a carer, they would be able to hire a personal assistant to work for the user without a Criminal Records Bureau or Independent Safeguarding Authority check.
The three sister charities, all of which campaign to protect people with learning disabilities, said that while service users with capacity could “take a risk with their own welfare” by shunning CRB checks, those lacking capacity could not.
In their responses, Robin Van den Hende (pictured), policy and campaigns officer for all three charities, warned the Department of Health: “We urge you to alter these regulations now rather than be forced to do so in five years because of the weight of cases of rape, assault and exploitation of people lacking capacity.”
While checks should not be compulsory for immediate family carers, all other potential PAs should undergo them, the charities said, to “prevent embarrassment dissuading ‘suitable persons'” from requesting checks of people they knew.
This view was backed by Mencap in its response, which said: “We do not think it is right for a third party to be able to risk the welfare of someone else by choosing not to CRB check staff.”
Worries over safeguarding
The controversy comes amid growing concerns over the safeguarding implications of the government’s personalisation agenda, which seeks to expand direct payments and roll-out personal budgets over the next three years.
A recent Community Care survey of 600 adult social workers last month found over 90% backed mandatory CRB checks for all PAs.
A Skills for Care report this year found half of service users did not carry out checks on PAs they hired whom they did not know.
Debate on compulsion ongoing
Speaking as the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services finalised its response to the direct payments consultation, the joint chair of its mental health network, Richard Webb, said he would “encourage people to take up CRB checks” but the debate was continuing about whether these should be compulsory.
In its response, the Alzheimer’s Society backed the extension of direct payments to people lacking capacity, but said there would need to be enhanced training for staff and increased awareness raising for professionals, users and carers to make a reality of the plans.
Mental Health Act
The consultation also included plans to give councils the power to offer direct payments to people receiving treatment under the Mental Health Act 1983.
The Mental Health Foundation raised concerns that councils would not be under a duty to do so, which the charity argued was “clearly discriminatory”, given councils would be under a duty to offer payments to all other groups.
• Have your say on plans to extend direct payments on Carespace.
Mental capacity: Alarm over DH plans to extend direct paymentsExpert guide to direct payments