Amendment 165

Domestic Abuse Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 10th February 2021.

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Baroness Greengross:

Moved by Baroness Greengross

165: After Clause 72, insert the following new Clause—“Duty to report suspected abuseA local authority must ensure that, where any of its employees suspects in the course of carrying out a financial assessment for adult social care that a person is the victim of domestic abuse, the employee reports the suspected abuse to a relevant social worker or the police.”

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench

My Lords, am I being heard?

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench

Thank you very much. I beg to move the amendment and speak also to Amendment 166. I have tabled these amendments to strengthen the Bill to protect older adults at risk of domestic abuse. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Randall of Uxbridge, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, for adding their names to both amendments.

Historically the abuse of older adults has been underreported and, sadly, all too often it is not viewed as a serious crime. It was nearly 30 years ago that I, as director of Age Concern England, with the help of the Department of Health, set up the charity Action on Elder Abuse, now Hourglass, of which I am proud to be a patron. However, it is with regret that I say that, after all these years, the prevention of abuse of older people is still not prioritised, despite one in six people over 65 in the UK having experienced some form of abuse. This is shocking, and the aim of these amendments is to improve the reporting and prevention of this crime.

Amendment 165 places a duty on local authorities to report suspected abuse. The financial assessment for adult social care carried out by local authorities is one area where the financial abuse of older people can be detected. The amendment would reinforce existing safeguards practised by local authorities and the duties of care detailed in the Care Act 2014. Figures from Hourglass show that 40% of calls to its helpline involve financial abuse. Often this is carried out by a family member or carer who is trusted by the victim, who is unaware that the abuse is taking place. Or perhaps the victim relies on the perpetrator for support and therefore feels unable to report the abuse.

Reinforcing the duty of local authorities to report this abuse through the amendment is essential to safeguarding adults at risk. This is particularly so for those who need social care, as they are often more vulnerable and may not be able to speak out. I co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia. Dementia is a condition that 850,000 people in the UK live with. Further, one in three people born in the UK this year will likely develop some form of dementia at some point in their life, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK figures. People living with this condition are much more vulnerable than most to financial and other forms of abuse, because they may not be aware of what is happening—or, if they are, they may not be considered a reliable witness if they report the abuse. Therefore, strengthening the duty on local authorities to report while carrying out adult social care financial assessments is crucial to preventing the financial abuse of older adults at risk.

Amendment 166 concerns powers of entry for registered social workers where there is suspected abuse of older people. At present, only the police have powers of entry and this is only when life and limb are at risk. The amendment allows powers of entry to a registered social worker only after a magistrates’ court has made an order permitting them to enter the premises for the purpose of identifying and supporting victims of domestic abuse. Power of entry would be granted only where a registered social worker has reason to believe that the occupants of the premises are at risk of being victims of domestic abuse and they have been refused entry by any occupant of the premises.

This power of entry was introduced in Scotland in 2008, and similar powers came into force in Wales in 2016. It is time to bring England in line with other parts of the United Kingdom, and this amendment seeks to achieve this. The experience both in Scotland and Wales suggests that having this power of entry in law can speed up the process of safeguarding inquiries.

In 2017, the King’s College London workforce research unit found that most practitioners were in favour of giving social workers the power of entry that this amendment would. Practitioners were concerned that perpetrators often use coercion or controlling behaviours to ensure that the victim would not consent to entry. They believed that giving registered social workers the ability to enter premises to investigate suspected abuse was necessary to ensure safeguarding.

In a situation where there is suspected child abuse, powers of entry would be given to social workers and/or the police. The life and limb of the child would not need to be at risk before state services intervened in this way. The amendment seeks similar protections for adults at risk.

A real-life example of how the current laws regarding power of entry are not sufficient to safeguard older adults at risk is the 2014 court case taken by the London Borough of Redbridge; this is recorded as EWCOP 485. In this case the local authority had received reports that a 94 year-old lady was the victim of abusive behaviour and that her finances were being controlled by the people she was living with. The social worker faced consistent obstruction in carrying out their duties and was unable to investigate the suspected abuse. Due to the current life-and-limb threshold in law, the court was not able to grant entry to the social worker, which I believe is quite shameful.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for her kind words on day five in Committee on this Bill regarding all the work that I have done in this area. But there continues to be a lack of awareness of the abuse of older people and a lack of sufficient safeguarding measures to prevent it happening in future. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to these two amendments: Amendment 165, which strengthens local authorities’ duty to report financial abuse, and Amendment 166, which brings England in line with Scotland and Wales with regards to the power of entry for registered social workers in cases of suspected abuse against adults at risk.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 4:30 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to put my name to the noble Baroness’s amendments. She has been such a tireless campaigner for older people over many decades, and she has pinpointed a very important issue in her amendments.

The aim of the first amendment in the group is to create a duty on local authorities to report suspected abuse, such that the local authority must ensure that, where any of its employees suspects in the course of carrying out a financial assessment for adult social care that a person is the victim of domestic abuse, the employee must report that suspected abuse to a relevant social worker or the police.

As Hourglass has pointed out, we know that the manifestations of abuse are often multiple and interacting. Financial abuse has typically been the most common abuse reported to the helpline—40% of calls in 2019. This rarely occurs without corresponding physical and/or psychological abuse. The financial assessment referred to in the amendment is a vital access point where abuse can be identified. The amendment could reinforce existing safeguards practised by the local authority and the duties of care detailed in the Care Act 2014. For older people, for whom domestic abuse is often viewed solely through a health and social care lens, the measure could join up the delivery of justice to survivors.

The second amendment in the group concerns the ability of social workers to gain entry for the purposes of identifying and supporting victims of domestic abuse. We know from a King’s College social care workforce research unit report in 2017 that, in current safeguarding practice in England, access to an adult at risk can be obstructed by a third party. This is referred to by King’s College as “hindering”. The study focused on those situations in respect of adults who are thought to have decision-making capacity because there are powers permitting professionals to access a person lacking a decision-making capacity. The study was also concerned with cases where professionals are unaware of the capacity of the adult at risk because of problems in gaining access.

Why then are third parties being obstructive? Practitioner interviews identified an array of scenarios. Sometimes family members were being arguably overprotective, often in cases involving an adult at risk with learning disabilities. Some third parties were thought to be fearful that the social worker would disrupt an established relationship.

While complex hinder situations appear to be rare, practitioners report that they are usually resolved by good social work and multiagency working. Social workers appeared to be creative in their approaches to gaining access to the adult at risk, but in a small number of cases, gaining any access can prove to be very difficult and sometimes impossible. Such cases take up an awful lot of time and resource, and may mean that adults at risk suffer abuse or neglect for long periods. In such cases, many social workers support the introduction of a power of entry and some of the other powers available in Scotland, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, refers.

This sets a very helpful context to the two amendments and I hope that the Government will prove to be sympathetic.

Photo of Lord Randall of Uxbridge Lord Randall of Uxbridge Conservative

My Lords, it is an honour to follow two such experts in this field as the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. I pay tribute in particular to all the work that the noble Baroness has done over the years. In fact, it was her speech at Second Reading, reminding me of the problems connected with elder abuse in reference to domestic abuse, that gave me the inspiration to jointly sign this amendment with the noble Baroness, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, who will follow—all of whom have much more expertise in this field that I do. I am not entirely sure that elder abuse of the kind that has been discussed—particularly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, mentioned, among dementia sufferers—is given quite the same impetus as in other forms. I feel strongly that we should be looking at this.

I will not detain the Committee long. There are many other speakers with much more expertise in this field. I have discovered that provisions similar to those suggested in these amendments already exist in Scotland and Wales. It seems strange that we do not follow them in England. I would be interested to hear my noble friend the Minister explain why the Government cannot accept these amendments. Call me psychic, but I have a feeling there will be some reason why not. I urge the Government to accept them. If not, perhaps they could come back on Report. Let us take this issue as seriously as we all agree it should be.

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench

My Lords, I support Amendments 165 and 166. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, for her tireless work over so many years, as other noble Lords have done. I thank her too for tabling these amendments and for her excellent introductory remarks. She knows so much about these issues.

Abuse against older people is widely assumed to be a problem in care homes. In reality, the vast majority occurs in the elderly person’s home and the perpetrators tend to be family members. Too often, one of the offspring happens to live near the surviving parent, as happened in my family. This person finishes up taking on the care responsibilities. Often the relationship between the two—the elderly person and the slightly less elderly person, who may also be elderly—can have been quite problematic for many years. The fault may lie on either side, or the word “blame” may be completely inappropriate. The child, who may be aged 60 or even 70-plus, can find themself having to do all sorts of personal and unpleasant jobs, day after day for many years. Generally, there is no financial reward, although this may be irrelevant. It is not surprising that resentment can build up and there is abuse in some form or other.

My only comment on the wording of Amendment 165 is that I should prefer the reference to reporting to be limited to a social worker and not to include the police. I do not want to speak against police officers. They can be good and sensitive in these situations. However, in my experience, relationship conflicts are generally best handled with empathy on both sides, rather than with an immediate reaction based on victim and perpetrator. Of course, if a crime has been committed, the social worker could—and would—report the situation to the police. This option is available, but I worry about the police becoming involved too early when it may not be appropriate. If the Government accept the amendment, I should like to see guidance that makes it clear that intervention will need to be made with an open mind to the position of both parties.

I also support Amendment 166, which provides for a registered social worker to be given a legal right of entry if they suspect domestic abuse of an elderly person in their own home. Many years ago, I practised as a psychiatric social worker. We had powers of entry. I never used them, but I am aware that, where people are frightened of the authorities and may prevent access, the only way to provide the much-needed help is to explain that you have the legal right of entry and, if necessary, would involve the police. There is then no question about it: as I understand it from colleagues, the door is then opened, and you can begin to make progress.

Oh dear, I seem to have lost my sound.

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench

Sorry. My machine went off. I have nearly finished anyway.

Abuse of the elderly by relatives is much neglected. If the Government support resolving these problems in principle, I hope the Minister will see these amendments as helpful and constructive.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 4:45 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, I am speaking on this group because I respect the experience and judgment of the signatories to these two amendments. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, mentioned the resentment that can grow after a long period of caring for a family member. I would add the sheer exhaustion and the discovery that the person who is being cared for does not seem to be the person they once were.

The first amendment on the duty to report reminds me of debates we held not so long ago about a mandatory duty to report and act on the abuse or neglect of children. This amendment does not go that far. It seems to be cast as a contract of employment. I am not sure what the outcome would be in the case of non-compliance. It may be too detailed at this stage when we are discussing principles.

This is another aspect of awareness and the culture change, which have been discussed quite a lot this afternoon. The amendment is worded as if someone is carrying out a financial assessment. Would that person have more access than someone carrying out an occupational health assessment of the needs for adaptations? I accept that a financial assessment is about more than paperwork, but there will be clues, such as, “Oh, my daughter deals with all that”.

The amendment is linked to the amendment introduced on the second day of Committee about mandatory awareness training for professionals. Its focus was on front-line professionals, but all the points made then apply here too. When the House looks again at that amendment, as I am sure it will, can we think about how it is relevant to this situation? In that debate, my noble friend Lady Burt talked about co-ordination between agencies. The Minister, who gave a sympathetic and detailed response, referred to guidance from different agencies. As the mover of that amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, said,

“there is plenty of guidance but no means of making sure that it is always translated into action.”–[Official Report, 27/1/21; col. 1741.]

Despite the Scottish and Welsh examples about the power of entry, I am rather leery of going down this path. I do not know the extent to which professionals, other than the police and social workers, can apply for an order, as the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, mentioned. I am too much of a Pollyanna in wanting to start from a position of sympathy with both sides and to take a gentler approach, but I know that gentleness and nuance do not always work. Adult safeguarding is complex, especially if access is blocked. All this raises issues around privacy and the importance of building relationships.

I realise that the life and limb threshold for the police to gain entry under PACE is high. I also appreciate that there has been work on this issue, although, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I could not get past “page not found” when I searched for it this morning.

The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, is a doughty campaigner and advocate. I appreciate I have been a bit picky, so I make it clear that I share the concerns which lie behind these amendments, although I have some reservations about their detail.

Photo of Baroness Hodgson of Abinger Baroness Hodgson of Abinger Conservative

My Lords, like others, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, on championing the rights of older people over so many years. I will speak in support of Amendments 165 and 166.

At Second Reading, I highlighted the ONS statistics showing that in 2017, when it comes to older victims, more than 200,000 people aged 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales. One in four victims of domestic homicide are over the age of 60. Age UK argues that older victims are systematically overlooked, suggesting that an older person being physically or mentally abused by their adult child or grandchild, family member or spouse of 50-plus years is far less likely to be recognised for who they are—a victim. It is a well-known fact that, in the UK, women regularly outlive men. As a result, they are often more vulnerable, living on their own and frail.

The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, highlighted the work of Hourglass, formerly Action on Elder Abuse. Its recent polling, conducted during the pandemic last year, showed that the number of calls related to the abuse of older people by a neighbour doubled. Meanwhile, 38% of calls in the first six months of 2020 related to sons or daughters as the perpetrators. Hourglass also reports that financial abuse is the most common type of abuse reported to its helpline, making up 40% of calls in 2019. These facts only reinforce the importance of these two amendments.

Amendment 165 is needed because financial assessment is an important marker and access point where potential abuse can be identified. Amendment 166 will ensure powers equal to those tried and tested across the border in Scotland and is an important safeguard for all, including older victims. How we treat our vulnerable is a reflection of our society and the elderly, like the very young, are among the most vulnerable. We need a zero-tolerance attitude to abuse, whatever the age of those involved, and must work hard to protect the vulnerable and support the many hidden victims of such crimes.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

My Lords, I too pay many congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. I mean this in the most polite way possible: during our time in opposition in the 1980s and 1990s, when I spoke on social services from the Front Bench—in other words, a long time ago—Sally was always there with helpful briefings. She has massive expertise and real hands-on experience of these issues.

I support both amendments in principle. I could quibble, as one or two others have done, about some of the detail, but they are both to be supported in principle, because this is an untapped area. In respect of Amendment 165’s provision for

“carrying out a financial assessment for adult social care”,

no one has yet mentioned that the person concerned—the older person—may well be the owner of the property. They may not be living in the property of their children or grandchildren. I can remember one occasion when a residential home in my former constituency was going to be closed. All the residents had to be assessed as to whether they might need nursing care, residential care or supported care. It was found that something like 10% of them could go off and live independently. What social services told me was: “We don’t know why they were there in the first place”. They had effectively been dumped by their families in order to get their hands on property.

All kinds of issues are involved here, not just, as some noble Lords have implied, the frustration due to the actual burden of caring. It would be quite valid if, where there is a suspicion, it is reported. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, talked about worries over being reported to social services or the police. The fact is that if there is good multi-agency working at local level, and the police were contacted first, you would expect them to say to social services, “Could you run the rule past this one?” In other words, it ought to be a multi-agency approach and it should not matter where the first contact is made. There ought to be a local procedure, and there should be no problem about worrying whether the police are contacted first.

As the noble Lord, Lord Randall, said, it will be interesting to hear the Minister’s explanation of why it works well, as one assumes, in Scotland and Wales and cannot work in England. I was amazed when I looked at the amendment originally, to be honest, by the implication that social workers did not have the power of entry, so I checked that. I understand the problems of PACE from my other activities and my interests in the food industry.

There is an issue where a professional has reasonable grounds for believing abuse may be taking place. First, it ought to be reported and secondly, if need be, access ought to be given. It seems quite simple: those two issues are not part and parcel of what goes on at present, and we require legislation to deal with it. If legislation is required to make the system work and protect older people from such abuse, then so be it.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, I will be quick, partly because noble Lords have already said almost everything there is to say about this, but also because it seems so obvious. These quite simple amendments would bring us up to date with other Administrations and it seems sensible to accept them.

Statutory reporting is an important tool, which we do not make enough of at the moment. Domestic abuse, child sexual abuse and other hidden crimes often arouse at least some level of suspicion and we need what was called earlier “the professional curiosity” to kick in, so that perhaps more will be reported. Whether that suspicion is noted by a social worker, teacher, or bin man, it should trigger a process of reporting and investigation that could lead to survivors being supported and perpetrators facing justice. Far too many cases go unreported at the moment, because it is too easy to pigeon-hole these human tragedies as “not my job” or “above my pay grade”, or simply because people do not know where to turn.

Implementing statutory reporting will lead to every individual understanding their role in tackling domestic abuse and require the authorities to put the process in place to deliver. This could matter more and more with our aging population. This abuse could happen more frequently, so these provisions would be needed with increased frequency. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, hugely for bringing these two amendments forward and look forward to returning to them on Report.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 5:00 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. I too pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. Once again, she has identified an area which is absolutely right for an addition to the Bill. I would be very interested to know whether the Minister has had a chance to study how these provisions have operated in Scotland and Wales. If they have operated effectively there, as it would appear, it seems timely of us to introduce them at this stage of the Bill, or certainly on Report.

As other noble Lords have rightly identified, how we can better protect older adults, particularly those receiving social care in their own homes—we know that that number will grow over the next 20 to 30 years —is worthy of attention. This is a good opportunity to tackle abuse and raise awareness of potential abuse among older people. I have no hesitation in commending Amendments 165 and 166 to my noble friend and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, and her co-authors on bringing them forward and allowing us the opportunity to support them today.

Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat

My Lords, these two small but important amendments are perfect examples of what I have been banging on about throughout the Bill and what my noble friend Lady Brinton kindly alluded to: the need for a joined-up approach on the part of all services to work together to help victims, particularly, in this instance, older people. Amendment 165 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, and other noble Lords requires local authorities’ staff who suspect abuse to notify social services or the police. I am grateful to her and to Hourglass for all the work that they do. As she said, Hourglass says that 40% of the calls it received in 2019 related to financial abuse—the most common type of abuse reported—but it often goes hand in hand with physical and psychological abuse. When victims reach out for financial support, those in the local authority must be trained not just to process the claim or recognise the signs of abuse, but to report it to a relevant social worker or the police.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, illuminated the Committee with her telling description of how real-life long-term relationships can escalate, a point echoed by my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who linked back to the day-to-day regarding the need for training professionals.

Amendment 166, also in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, tackles the issue of when a social worker is refused entry to premises and suspects that domestic abuse is being perpetrated. As we have heard, at present the social worker would need to ask the police to obtain a magistrate’s order, but there are several benefits of their being able to obtain entry themselves, not least not having to further burden an already overstretched police force. Research by King’s College, which has already been mentioned, identified that this could prevent escalation to the point where a more drastic intervention by police was needed and speed up the process of safeguarding inquiries. This power has already been trialled. As several noble Lords have mentioned, it was introduced in Scotland in 2008 and in Wales in 2016. It seems to work well and creates a greater expectation of compliance, which may obviate the necessity of obtaining an order at all. Obstruction of entry is rare but, on the occasions when it is needed, this no-messing early intervention can save lives.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Amendment 165, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, would require that where a local authority employee

“suspects in the course of carrying out a financial assessment for adult social care that a person is the victim of domestic abuse, the employee reports the suspected abuse to a relevant social worker or the police.”

Amendment 166 would allow “A magistrates court” to

“make an order permitting a registered social worker to enter premises specified … by force for the purposes of identifying and supporting victims of domestic abuse”.

I will be interested to hear the government response on the specifics of these amendments. We definitely support the general aim of making sure that older victims are focused on and protected and, like so many noble Lords, we recognise the truly immense contribution that the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, has made in drawing attention to and highlighting older victims of abuse. After all, the Bill will achieve its aim only if it works for all victims. Older victims are too often invisible—metaphorically speaking—can suffer different forms of abuse, and are at increased risk of adult family abuse. Amendment 165 raises the importance of staff being taught to recognise the signs of abuse and who to raise their concerns with when they see it. The amendment refers to an employee possibly reporting suspected domestic abuse direct to the police, an issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher. I am not sure whether that would be only with the victim’s consent. The amendment also raises the importance of joined-up working so that, where abuse is suspected, it gets acted on and victims are offered support.

The Local Government Association has raised the need for clarity on information sharing between agencies. In its consultation response on the Bill, it said:

“There is still not a clear and consistent understanding about what information professionals can share within agencies and across agencies … Given the changes introduced through the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), the LGA thinks it is crucial for the Government to issue guidance on how” those changes affect

“safeguarding and information sharing arrangements, particularly the impact on domestic abuse victims.”

Like other noble Lords, I await with interest the Minister’s response to both amendments on behalf of the Government.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

My Lords, I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, will not get a big head when I again pay tribute to her for highlighting the plight of elderly victims of domestic abuse. She has such experience in this area. These very well-intentioned amendments seek to tackle the scourge of elder abuse. My noble friend Lady Hodgson of Abinger said that the way we treat our elderly reflects us as a society; I agree.

Local authorities are well equipped to identify, investigate and address suspicions or cases of domestic abuse where the individual has existing care and support needs or is known through other means. There are mechanisms and clear professional responsibilities in place to ensure the safety of suspected or known victims. I am not convinced that these amendments will add value to existing rules and processes or improve outcomes for elderly people experiencing domestic abuse, and I will explain why.

On Amendment 165, local authority employees are expected to undertake safeguarding training to ensure that they are able to identify and act on any concerns about exploitation or abuse in any circumstances, including when carrying out financial assessments for adult social care. Existing mechanisms will be in place to ensure that training is effective and that employees are able to escalate any issues. Escalation may include making a report to the police or making a referral under Section 42 of the Care Act 2014, which places a duty on local authorities to make inquiries, or to ask others to make inquiries, where they reasonably suspect that an adult in their area is at risk of neglect or abuse, including financial abuse.

Turning to Amendment 166, the police have existing powers of entry which ensure the protection of victims of domestic abuse and other instances of exploitation and harm where appropriate. We do not think that social workers require powers of entry separate from those of the police, who already effectively carry out this function. It is appropriate for the police to lead on any steps which may require gaining entry to a home where there is a serious threat from a perpetrator of domestic abuse. Extending this power to social workers risks placing them in dangerous situations which they are not equipped to deal with.

In addition, introducing a power of entry applicable to instances of domestic abuse risks creating a hierarchy of the different categories of exploitation, harm and abuse that are set out in the Care Act 2014. To take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, the police, and health and social care professionals, will have local arrangements in place to enable joint working with one another and other partners to investigate all instances where an adult or child must be safeguarded, including instances which may require police to enter a home. It also plays to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made about data protection when information sharing. I think that joint working, certainly in the case of the troubled families programme, gets round those data protection issues.

Where there are concerns that an individual with a mental disorder is being ill-treated or neglected, including through domestic abuse, approved mental health professionals have special powers of entry set out in Section 135 of the Mental Health Act 1983. This allows for the approved mental health professional to present evidence at a magistrates’ court to obtain a warrant authorising the police, an approved mental health professional and a registered medical practitioner to gain entry to the premises, for an assessment to take place there and then or for the person to be removed to a place of safety.

Local authorities have the power to investigate under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 if they have cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. These inquiries will determine whether they should take action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. Furthermore, social workers may make an application under Section 44 of the Children Act 1989 for an emergency protection order. Where an emergency protection order is in place, the court can authorise a police officer to accompany the social worker if they are refused entry to the premises. Where the police have cause to believe that a child is likely to suffer significant harm, under Section 46 of the Children Act the child can be removed to suitable accommodation.

I hope that I have reassured the noble Baroness that there are practices and procedures in place to identify and tackle domestic abuse where financial assessments are being undertaken for the purposes of adult social care, and that there are existing powers of entry, exercisable by the police and others, that can be used where necessary. Having initiated this important debate, I hope that the noble Baroness is happy to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Lord Lexden Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I have received one request to speak after the Minister, from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, whom I now call.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee), Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee) 5:15 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, I declare my interest, as set out in the register, as chair of the National Commission on Forced Marriage. I ask the Minister that any guidance on training that is given to local authorities has added to it that some women may be victims of forced marriage and may therefore need some specialist support.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

I can certainly look into that for the noble and learned Baroness and ask that it be included.

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. I am most grateful. The understanding and special knowledge that many of them shared was very helpful and gave me a lot of hope for the future. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, because, as I have known for many years, he is aware of all the problems involved, physical, financial, et cetera.

The noble Lord, Lord Randall, pointed out that there is less impetus in reporting these issues than those of younger people, and we must ask why. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, identified the complexity of these issues and how existing relationships sometimes determine what is happening and what is reported. I was aware of her reluctance to involve the police, but my experience with the Met in London is that it is often the police who uncover aspects of bad care, no care or, worse, abuse that other people do not know about, so we disagree on that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, had some reservations relating to a lack of awareness about these issues. I agree with her. As she pointed out, cultural change is needed. The noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, emphasised how training is essential because many older people unfortunately face issues, as we have heard about in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, highlighted that the family is not always as loving and supportive as in the ideal situation that we are talking about and would like to see, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, emphasised how professional input is needed, whoever reports these issues. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, pointed out that we need to give attention to this problem, which we must tackle. It has been tackled better in Scotland and in Wales, which is quite unacceptable. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said that we must not leave older people out, which I am afraid has happened so often until now. I am not sure that without some measures we will do enough to protect the people to whom these two amendments apply.

The Minister emphasised how local authorities are well equipped and should deal with this problem, and how the police have the right of entry when necessary. But I have to say to her that, in spite of the fact that they have the right of entry and that local authorities are well equipped, there are problems, and I hope that I have highlighted them in a way that means that your Lordships will understand that they need highlighting.

As many people have said, I have worked on these issues for many years, and I feel that what we have in place is just not sufficient to make the system work well and ensure that older people have the rights to the protection of society and to the bringing to justice of perpetrators of abuse that they should have. Whatever our age, we are adults and are part of this country’s population, and we must not leave this huge number of people with fewer rights to help and care than other, younger people have. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment but hope that this matter will be taken further.

Amendment 165 withdrawn.

Amendments 166 to 170 not moved.

Photo of Lord Lexden Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We now come to Amendment 171. As usual, I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in the debate.