A risk worth taking?

At first glance, proposed amendments to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, aimed at protecting people using direct payments, seem reasonable enough.

However, Liberal Democrat peers and some learning difficulties charities want to close a loophole that they claim could leave service users at the mercy of unscrupulous employees. The fear is that as more and more vulnerable people start taking up direct payments, the current system could prove to be a magnet for the wrong type of staff. Surely it makes sense to tighten up regulations and insist people using direct payments check that their prospective employees are not on a barred list?

Not necessarily so. Some argue that anything that restricts choice could stop service users getting the support they need when they need it -which should be sooner rather than later. The underlying principle of direct payments is that people should be able to choose who they employ. Of course most people would be well advised to take up references and even organise Criminal Records Bureau checks.

But as we know that takes time. If someone has urgent support needs should they have to manage without help – or have to enlist someone they don’t get on with – while the person they do want goes through all the relevant checks. And what about if the prospective employee is someone they already know and who has proved themselves trustworthy, must they too be made to jump through the hoops? This is a complex issue and there is a delicate balance to be struck. Yes, vulnerable people need to be protected but if they are to be genuinely empowered they have to be allowed to make choices and that will always carry an element of risk.

Besides, just because someone’s name is not on a barred list does not mean they are beyond reproach. In fact, some could argue that the use of the list could lull people into a false sense of security. Those seeking to change the bill and tighten up laws on employing people should pause and reflect on why so many in the service user movement oppose the move.

See Lib Dems strive to toughen up bill and protect direct payment users

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