David Cameron will be lobbied today to give social workers a “power of access” to vulnerable adults whom they suspect are being abused but who are being coerced into silence by a third party.
Ex-care services minister Paul Burstow will lead a delegation of MPs and sector leaders to meet Cameron with a list of demands to strengthen the safeguarding adults aspects of the Care Bill. These include:
- A power of access for social workers to conduct a confidential interview with a vulnerable adult whom they suspect are being abused but where the person is being coerced into silence by a third-party;
- A new offence of abusing an adult vulnerable to abuse, where the adult has mental capacity to take relevant decisions, filling the perceived gap left by the offence of wilful neglect or ill-treatment of a person who lacks capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005;
- A new offence of corporate neglect to make the leadership of care providers liable for serious failings of care.
The government has so far rejected calls to give social workers a power of access; a consultation last year showed strong support for it from health and social care professionals but opposition from most members of the public who responded.
But Burstow said: “It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye to the fact that most abuse takes place in people’s own homes. The law must be able to protect even when someone is too frightened to call for help.”
Such a power would only be available if all voluntary means of accessing the adult had been tried and a magistrate had been convinced that use of the power was necessary to protect the person.
Burstow’s calls are backed by the charities Age UK, Mencap and Action on Elder Abuse, whose chief executive Gary FitzGerald will be joining the delegation to meet Cameron.
“Too many very vulnerable older people suffer dreadful treatment at the hands of abusers who simply get away with it,” he said. “The Care Bill gives an opportunity to strengthen the law, ensure justice for victims and their families, and send a message to those who abuse, or make profit from abuse, that their actions will not be tolerated and will have serious consequences.”
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