My Lords, I support Amendments 77, 80 and 82, to which I have added my name. I will also comment on Amendment 79.
I strongly support the need for adult safeguarding access orders and applaud the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, for tabling the relevant amendments. As we discussed last week, as local authority resources shrink further—the Minister referred to a 5% reduction so far—the reality is that care will be left more and more in the hands of relatives, many of whom may themselves be elderly and frail; or indeed they may be younger, with childcare responsibilities and have great difficulty in providing support in all directions. Inevitably, many family carers will find it extremely hard to cope, and there will undoubtedly be situations when elderly or disabled people are neglected or in some way abused. I fear that the only way in which family carers will get the help they need will be if adult safeguarding access orders are available, so that following an alert the local authority can become involved, assess the situation and, where appropriate, prioritise further support.
As public services shrink, the neglect of elderly and disabled people—even gross negligence in some cases—will become a growing problem that could very easily become a national scandal. Having said all that, I part company with my noble friend Lady Greengross when it comes to Amendment 79. We have the criminal law. It may not cover absolutely everything but I would not want to see any increase in the likelihood that an overburdened family carer could face criminal charges if they reach the point where they cannot continue to care appropriately for a relative. For me, the purpose of adult safeguarding access orders is to ensure that problems are identified—they certainly need to be—and support is made available in order to enable a carer to cope in the style they would wish to provide.