Section 49 — Persons authorised to perform functions under this Part

Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:11 pm on 15th February 2007.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 3:11 pm, 15th February 2007

Group 4 is on authorised persons: council officers. Amendment 4, in the name of Dr Jean Turner, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Dr Jean Turner Dr Jean Turner Independent 3:15 pm, 15th February 2007

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 of experience to cope in such situations and to tone down a situation that might easily blow out of all proportion. Such situations must be handled with care and with the least intervention. The powers under the bill to enter premises to investigate or remove people should be used only by qualified social workers with a minimum of 12 months' experience. In fact, I would make that 24 months, but in the spirit of compromise I have said 12 months in the amendment.

I move amendment 4.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

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.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

I agree with Scott Barrie. There is a risk with amendment 4 that we would be trying to manage the work of social work departments by statute, which would not be appropriate. It is a matter for the exercise of discretion by the social work departments of local authorities.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I have consulted social work departments on amendment 4 and I have not received anything other than a general feeling that it would be sensible.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

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 appropriately qualified and trained persons are authorised to perform roles that relate to assessment and removal. However, the detail of the draft regulations still needs to be worked through with the Association of Directors of Social Work, and therefore will be subject to wider consultation.

On the basis of that approach, we will resist amendment 4.

Photo of Dr Jean Turner Dr Jean Turner Independent

I accept what Scott Barrie said about previous experience, but we do not know what an individual's experience prior to becoming a social worker will be. We also do not yet know what the regulations will be. Therefore, I press amendment 4.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 4 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

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

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 23, Against 64, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 4 disagreed to.