Report (2nd Day)

Part of Care Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 14th October 2013.

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Photo of Lord Rix Lord Rix Crossbench 7:15 pm, 14th October 2013

My Lords, I lend my support to Amendment 77, tabled by my noble friend Lady Greengross. I would also like to express astonishment that we seem to have reached the target for tonight before the dinner hour.

My interest, of course, is with people with a learning disability and what is increasingly referred to as mate crime. This is where someone has befriended a person with a learning disability and is exploiting or abusing them in some way. In some cases this person may be living with them and, for example, concerns may have been raised by neighbours that the person may be being abused. Currently, the local authority would be unable to speak to the adult with a learning disability to establish if they are all right as the other person, the third party, always answers the door and will not let them in. This power would change that. I understand that the power on the statute book in Scotland is being used sparingly, and I believe that it is used appropriately.

I now turn to Amendments 79A and 81A, which are tabled in my name, on strengthening the safeguarding clause. Currently only financial abuse is defined in the Bill. However, there are of course many other types of abuse, such as physical, psychological and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. The amendment seeks to rebalance the definition. I understand that there has to be a definition of financial abuse in the Bill as there is not a legal definition elsewhere. However, limiting the definition to financial abuse, suggests that there are no other forms of abuse or that professionals and agencies should focus on financial abuse alone.

Although I do not doubt that people with a learning disability suffer financial abuse, other forms of abuse are far more common. Indeed, statistics on the number of safeguarding referrals detailed in the Abuse of Vulnerable Adults in England report for 2012-13 show that physical abuse and neglect were the most common. We would not wish inadvertently to elevate financial abuse above and beyond other forms of abuse. Of course, I understand that there is a reluctance to list types of abuse in case the list appears to be exhaustive and never-ending. The amendment adds the option to specify other forms as detailed in guidance, which I hope will allay such fears.

Amendment 81A, the second amendment tabled in my name, places a duty on safeguarding adults boards to send a copy of their annual report to the Secretary of State. These reports are important in that they detail the findings from safeguarding adult reviews that have been carried out. In addition, a welcome government amendment has added that these reports must now show the actions that boards have taken to implement the findings.

At the moment Schedule 2 says that a copy of the annual report must be sent to the CEO and leader of the local authority, the local policing body, the local Healthwatch and the chair of the health and well-being board. It is important that lessons are learnt nationally and sending these annual reports to the Secretary of State will allow us to understand the national picture and issue guidance as appropriate. People with a learning disability are some of the most vulnerable people in our country and not to monitor and respond to abuse at a national level is quite unacceptable.