Yes, I agree.
I happily accept that every member of this Committee is committed to trying to do the right thing by very vulnerable people—there is no doubt about that. However, it is easy to rush such a Bill, particularly at a time when the Government are a bit distracted by other matters. The argument may seem simple on the surface: “Oh, we have a bit of a backlog, but let’s not concentrate on how it developed—maybe it was resource-driven. Let’s focus on the fact that we have a backlog and find a way of streamlining things to get that down.” When taking that approach, it is easy to gradually step away from the essential safeguards.
Sometimes these things take time. I do not want there to be unnecessary repeat authorisations. The Minister mentioned that to me recently and I accept that it is just pointless bureaucracy, but it is possible to try too hard to limit it. One of the reasons why protections and safeguards are built in is to stop us from trampling over people. It was a long time ago now, but I should confess that in my dim and distant past I was once a social worker, and I know what happens when people are under pressure. The case load of an average social worker these days is unbelievable compared to 30 or 40 years ago, and they are under enormous pressure to get things done with insufficient resources.
People do not consciously set out to cut corners; they inevitably set out to get the job done. If we do not create a piece of legislation that constantly draws them back to the sort of things that should be considered in order to protect a person’s interests and to ensure the right balance is struck between providing proper care and protecting that person’s legitimate rights and liberties—we need to put that on the face of the Bill—we risk a situation that is weighted against the interests of the vulnerable person and in favour of the powerful authorities. However we choose to look at it, those authorities always have a different agenda, or more than one agenda, to satisfy.