Clause 6

Part of Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:00 am on 13 July 2006.

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Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 9:00, 13 July 2006

I appreciate that the Minister might find some technical fault with the amendments, so I shall concentrate on the sentiment behind them, which is all-important. The core amendment is amendment No. 106, which has the support of the Parkinson’s Disease Society. It would require a regulated activity provider to inform direct payment recipients about the vetting and barring system, to increase awareness and to offer to undertake an appropriate check on the individual’s behalf.

I shall backtrack and explain how the issue was dealt with in debates in the other place, where I understand it was one of the most controversial issues. My noble Friends argued that people who arranged services for vulnerable recipients of direct payments should be classed as regulated activity providers and wanted everybody involved to be vetted and barred. Probably quite rightly, the Government did not accept that argument taken to its extreme, because it would have placed a huge burden on some 2 million carers in the UK, many of whom are family or friends, perhaps in informal arrangements.

The introduction of the direct payments scheme has brought additional bureaucracy, which has destabilised some long-term caring arrangements with extra requirements. The last thing that amendment No. 106 is attempting to do is destabilise arrangements or make already difficult situations even more difficult; rather, it says that the local authority, which is likely to be the instigator of the direct payments, should tell the recipient that the vetting and barring scheme exists.

We have all acknowledged how complicated the system is, and the recipients of direct payments will not have much time or inclination to work their way through the complexities of the legislation. Amendment No. 106 is intended to say that the local authority should say to the recipient of the direct payments, “This system exists—would like assistance to do any checking on the carers you’re going to use? If you’re quite satisfied, because you’ve known them for 20-odd years, we needn’t take it any further.” In other words, amendment No. 106 is permissive. However, taken together, the amendments would place a duty on the local authority or whomever to alert the recipient to the fact that the new system exists and to give assistance.

If the Minister cannot accept the wording, I hope that he will accept the idea as a compromise that would meet the many concerns that have been raised. The direct payments scheme is becoming a bigger and bigger way to provide care. It is a good way to give people choice, but we want a bit of a safety net when that choice is exercised.