No Secrets consultation fires up campaign for legislation

The Department of Health must be left “in no doubt” of the need for improved funding and legislation for adult protection in England.

That was the message from Action on Elder Abuse chief executive Gary FitzGerald (right) after the DH published a consultation document on reviewing the 2000 No Secrets guidance.

Action on Elder Abuse is to form a coalition next month with mental health charity Mind and learning disability body Voice UK to campaign for legislation during the three-month consultation. The charities said they would invite other voluntary and statutory bodies to join the campaign and call for legislation to:

● Put multi-agency adult protection committees on a statutory footing.

● Place agencies under a duty to co-operate and share information.

● Empower social workers to enter homes where they suspect abuse is taking place.

● Tackle underfunding of adult protection, which FitzGerald said was a big problem.

Contrary to earlier reports, the consultation document says the government was “open-minded” about legislation. It also cited concerns that campaigners believe can only be solved by legislation:

● Council adult protection leads had varied roles, with many having neither budget nor staff.

● In some areas, safeguarding is funded entirely by adult care departments, with no contributions from the police or NHS

● There is no common understanding of when serious case reviews should be undertaken.

But the consultation also warns that legislation could be “inflexible” to changes in circumstances and that a law would be unlikely to be introduced until 2011 at the earliest.

The alternative to legislating would be replacing No Secrets with fresh guidance, which would probably place requirements on all relevant agencies, not just on councils.

But Dwayne Johnson, co-chair of Association of Directors of Adults Social Services’ older people’s network, said this would be insufficient: “Could someone please tell me why that’s going to change the way we currently adopt safeguarding powers given we’ve had eight years of No Secrets?”

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• Read Gary FitzGerald’s take on the consultation on p6.

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