Amendment 4 seeks to ensure that council officers who have the power to enter premises and remove an adult at risk of harm are social workers with at least 12 months' experience since qualifying. The Health Committee was concerned when it first received the bill that council officers are to be given such serious powers. Being removed against one's will is beyond most folk's hopes and fears. They hope that it will never happen to them, but it could happen to any one of us. Council officers should be fully qualified and experienced enough to be able to handle the situation with great sensitivity. As the bill stands, any council officer may undertake the task.
The deputy minister has recognised the issue and is committed to introducing regulations to restrict the definition of a council officer. He has been kind enough to issue a draft of the regulations laying out the proposals. I am grateful for that courtesy and for the time that he gave me prior to lodging my amendments. However, the draft regulations propose that as well as undertaking a week's training, which I support, those eligible to use the extensive powers under the bill will require to be qualified social workers with only six months' experience. That is not enough; they should have 12 months' experience.
The regulations also propose that the first visits under the act, which will determine what happens next—whether somebody is taken away to be examined or is subject to a banning order and so on—may be undertaken by managers of adult day care or home care services. That is not appropriate, as there could be a conflict of interest if there were complaints about those services.
I lodged amendment 4 because I have witnessed situations in which extremely vulnerable people were dealt with, and it takes a high degree
I move amendment 4.
Although I accept the spirit of amendment 4, we should be serious about the reality of people who are employed in our local authorities. While the 24 months that Jean Turner indicated is her preferred option would be far too restrictive, I argue that 12 months is perhaps too restrictive as well. People should not underestimate the seriousness with which council employees will approach the powers that we are giving to them. To suggest that someone will go in willy-nilly and not treat the matter in the way in which we hope that they will is somewhat disrespectful to people's training and experience, which they may have gained before they were qualified. Introducing a restriction of 12 months would be going too far. We should resist amendment 4.
I agree with Scott Barrie that the intentions behind Jean Turner's amendment 4 are favourable, but the Executive's position is to resist it, because the approach that is set out in the draft regulations that I have circulated, which recognise that different functions are involved, is the right one. Council officers who perform functions that relate solely to visits may include, for example, day care managers who are also skilled and qualified people. However, a qualified social worker will be required to pursue a protection order. Therefore, the draft regulations will further limit the group of officers who are permitted to carry out those functions.
The views of social work professionals and colleagues in the Scottish Social Services Council were sought on the draft regulations. The proposed approach will provide some flexibility with regard to persons who may carry out more basic functions, but it will ensure that only
On the basis of that approach, we will resist amendment 4.
Division number 2
For: Aitken, Bill, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Monteith, Mr Brian, Petrie, Dave, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Sheridan, Tommy, Swinburne, John, Turner, Dr Jean
Against: Adam, Brian, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McAveety, Mr Frank, McFee, Mr Bruce, McMahon, Michael, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan