Clause 46

Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 17th January 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Failings by English local authorities

Photo of Sandra Gidley Sandra Gidley Shadow Minister, Health 2:45 pm, 17th January 2008

I beg to move amendment No. 78, in clause 46, page 23, line 27, at end add—

‘(6) In considering whether the function referred to in subsection (2) is being discharged to an acceptable standard the Commission shall have particular regard to its duty under section 2(3)(d) of this Act.’.

The clause as a whole deals with failings by local authorities and any special measures that the commission recommends that the Secretary of State should take. To save everybody looking it up, clause2(3)(d) refers to

“the need to safeguard and promote the rights and welfare of children and vulnerable adults”

This morning we heard some examples of concerns about how that might present a conflict in some cases. The specific example given was the case of a care home closure under certain powers. Although we may not think of it in this way, to people in those homes, it is their home. I have had personal experience of the closure of a home, not through any reasons of malpractice but simply because the owner did a runner  with the money, and suddenly provision had to be made for the elderly residents. It was difficult for the local authority and it seemed to be a case of slotting the residents into any available space so that the authority had done its duty. No regard was given to the particular needs of the residents.

The amendment is designed to tease out how important this aspect of the Bill is. We are constantly reassured by the Minister that it is on the face of the Bill so it will underpin everything, but there are times when expediency means that action has to be taken quickly and at that stage the human rights aspects are often forgotten. In many ways this is a probing amendment to see whether there is a hierarchy of priorities. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton raised a pertinent example earlier, where a lady with learning difficulties had her wishes completely disregarded. The amendment would ensure that, as a consequence of powers in the Bill, those situations do not arise. The hopes and wishes of all people must be taken into account, but particular care must be taken when those people cannot easily stand up for themselves.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (South West), The Minister of State, Department of Health

In response to the specific situation that the hon. Lady described and which we discussed earlier, about a care home having to close all of a sudden, I would point out that clause 2(3)(c) requires the Care Quality Commission to balance its own action against the risk that the action might pose for users. I hope that that goes some way to reassure her, as the commission will have a duty to consider that sort of situation. Clause 2 makes it clear that the commission must pay particular heed to the need to safeguard the rights and welfare of vulnerable people in everything that it does. That clearly applies to the commission’s actions under clause 48. In the light of that, I ask her to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Sandra Gidley Sandra Gidley Shadow Minister, Health

Clause 2(3)(d) refers to “the need to safeguard”, but it is included with a list of other things and the amendment was an attempt to give particular regard to that aspect so that it was at the top of the pecking order when considerations were being made. I do not feel that I will win this one so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 46 ordered to stand part of the Bill.