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 Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children) 9:00, 13 July 2006

Welcome back to the Chair, Mr. Conway. I shall say a few words in support of the amendments. They are sensible. As she has said, it is an area of care for vulnerable people that will grow. The Government rightly support direct payments, and many authorities throughout the country have pushed them.

The amendments also fit in with the Government policy, which we share, of encouraging as many people as possible to stay at home for as long as possible, but only where due and appropriate support is available. It should not be done by continually raising the threshold qualifying them for residential care without providing sufficient support to ensure that they, particularly elderly people, can stay at home without harm or injury.

An increasing number of people will use the direct payments scheme to engage the services of complete strangers to help clean their homes, do their shopping and provide other health-related and personal services. Such people will be put into a strong position of trust and will be able to take advantage of vulnerable people should they be so minded. I am sure that a few people will get into the system in order to take advantage of vulnerable people. Although the vast majority of people offering services through direct payments will not, the Bill is about weeding out bad apples.

It would be an excessive obligation to require every person offering such services to be vetted. It could cause enormous delay for people trying to exercise direct payments, and could lead to a diminution of choice for those trying to engage the services of somebody about whom they might know very little. It is eminently sensible and not too onerous a new obligation on local authorities simply to inform a vulnerable person or their carer—if there is a part-time carer, somebody with a power of attorney or an appropriate person—about the availability of the vetting system, and that they might like to avail themselves of it before taking a firm decision about whom their direct payments will go to.

The amendments would enhance the Bill by providing an extra safeguard for the growing part of the population that belongs to one of the vulnerable groups that we are discussing. The amendments would achieve that without being unduly onerous on local authorities, which after all will be responsible for organising direct payments. A reminder of the service’s availability would therefore not be too great an additional requirement.