My Lords, I thank all the noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have supported these amendments. I am encouraged that the issue is being taken so seriously by the noble Earl. In a way it is a shame that the timing of the consultation is as it is, and that we will not get it through until December. I have always been worried about certain aspects of
NHS complaints procedures, when the body that looks at those procedures is the NHS itself. I have felt for many years that that is unfortunate. I am very pleased that the Minister has agreed to look again seriously at all this. We need to protect these extremely vulnerable people from not getting the best level of service that they can because of a decision that could be to the detriment of their care, which could leave them feeling that their situation is hopeless and that there is nothing they can do.
I therefore thank the noble Earl. I am pleased that he is prepared to look at all this again and I hope that we can have some discussions on the outcome. This was a probing set of amendments—I did not intend to do anything other than probe—but I thank him and hope for better news about this or for more detailed decision-making in the near future. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 76 withdrawn.
Moved by Baroness Greengross
77: After Clause 41, insert the following new Clause—
“Power of access for confidential interview
Adult safeguarding access order
(1) An authorised officer may apply to a court for an order (an “adult safeguarding access order”) in relation to a person living in any premises within a local authority’s area.
(2) The purposes of an adult safeguarding access order are—
(a) to enable the authorised officer and any other person accompanying the officer to speak in private with a person suspected of being an adult at risk of abuse or neglect,
(b) to enable the authorised officer to assess the mental capacity of a person suspected of being an adult at risk of abuse,
(c) to enable the authorised officer to ascertain whether that person is making decisions freely, and
(d) to enable the authorised officer properly to assess whether the person is an adult at risk of abuse or neglect and to make a decision as required by section 41(2) on what, if any, action should be taken.
(3) When an adult safeguarding access order is in force the authorised officer, a constable and any other specified person accompanying the officer in accordance with the order, may enter the premises specified in the order for the purposes set out in subsection (2).
(4) The court may make an adult safeguarding access order if satisfied that—
(a) the authorised officer has reasonable cause to suspect that a person is an adult who is experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect,
(b) it is necessary for the authorised officer to gain access to the person in order to make whatever enquiries thought necessary and to make a decision as required by section 41(2) on what, if any, action should be taken,
(c) exercising the power of access conferred by the order will not result in the person being at greater risk of abuse or neglect.
(5) An adult safeguarding access order must—
(a) specify the premises to which it relates,
(b) provide that the authorised officer may be accompanied by a constable,
(c) specify the period for which the order is to be in force.
(6) Other conditions may be attached to an adult safeguarding access order, for example—
(a) specifying restrictions on the time that the power of access conferred by the order may be exercised,
(b) providing for the authorised officer to be accompanied by another specified person,
(c) requiring notice of the order to be given to the occupier of the premises and to the person suspected of being an adult at risk of abuse.
(7) A constable accompanying the authorised officer may use reasonable force if necessary in order to fulfil the purposes of an adult safeguarding access order set out in subsection (2).
(8) On entering the premises in accordance with an adult safeguarding access order, the authorised officer must—
(a) state the object of the visit,
(b) produce evidence of the authorisation to enter the premises, and
(c) provide an explanation to the occupier of the premises of how to complain about how the power of access has been exercised.
(9) In this section “an authorised officer” means a person authorised by a local authority for the purposes of this section, but regulations may set restrictions on the persons or categories of persons who may be authorised.”