Abuse fear grows as Ladyman rejects further controls over direct payments

If a single word could be used to sum up the thrust of Stephen
Ladyman’s policies it would be “independence”.

Since his appointment as community care minister in 2003 he has
consistently promoted a message of independence and choice. And the
eagerly-anticipated adult green paper, due any day, is expected to
have at its heart a drive to increase service users’ independence,
chiefly through direct payments and personalised budgets.

Until now, Ladyman’s commitment to independence and choice has been
welcomed. But his refusal last week to insist that councils help
service users use their direct payments to buy only services that
are regulated and checked is sure to have left some asking if he
has gone too far.

His determination not to undermine independence is laudable and
well-intentioned. But is there a danger that, in giving service
users the choice to select any provider they wish – regulated or
not – Ladyman will instead be making it too easy for abusers to
enter the lives of vulnerable people?

Kathryn Stone, director of learning difficulty charity Voice UK,
says the decision is “very, very risky and wholly
“The whole argument is about people being able to make an informed
choice,” she says. “Unless people have all the information, how can
they make a proper choice?”

Stone says all the government needs to do is publish a checklist
for people that would include basic tips, such as what to look out
for in prospective employees’ references, so they can be confident
the person they are employing is a good one

Employment law and the accompanying Protection of Vulnerable Adults
list and Criminal Records Bureau checks are considered a minefield
for service users and their carers who are responsible for hiring

Voice UK’s chair Raymond Pope, whose 25-year-old daughter has
Down’s syndrome and was abused in respite care, adds: “We know that
the people who abuse our sons and daughters are really smart
cookies.” He insists some simple assistance could help people
choose a safe provider.

But Rachel Childs, policy officer in community health and social
care at Help The Aged, says the charity sees the argument as more

“The whole point about direct payments is they promote
independence. If you then impose compulsory checks, that is going
against that choice. Many older people employ relatives. Are we
really saying that we want every older person to get a check on
someone before they can employ them?”

Arguing that life has inherent risks, she adds: “It would be
patronising to have a system where there is no degree of

For Mencap’s head of external relations David Congdon, though, the
opportunities for abusers are far too great to make checks

“It is a bit odd that the regulations in residential care are
becoming tighter. They have staff and other groups of people
around. But when a worker is in somebody’s home, who is looking in

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.