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Vulnerable Adults: Protection

Volume 489: debated on Tuesday 10 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he plans to take to enforce a multi-agency approach to safeguarding vulnerable adults, with particular reference to those who are both deaf and blind. (261504)

A revision of the key guidance, “No Secrets: Guidance on developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse”, is currently under way. As part of this, a large public consultation took place between 16 October 2008 and 31 January 2009. A copy of the consultation document has been placed in the Library.

The consultation document asked a large number of questions about how we need to change and develop the “No Secrets” guidance, to strengthen and improve existing safeguarding arrangements for all vulnerable adults, including whether new legislation is needed. The review is also considering how to improve prevention of abuse, and how to assist all people including those who are blind or deaf in making decisions about risks and choice in their lives.

The consultation on safeguarding adults has elicited a huge amount of information, from both service users and professionals which is being considered very carefully by Ministers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he plans to take to ensure that carers do not exert undue influence on vulnerable adults purchasing their care using personal budgets or direct payments. (261514)

It is for professionals in developing support plans with users and carers to balance the needs of both. In doing so they need to ensure that an assessment of risk is undertaken and that the support plan reflects that in a proportionate manner as stated in the “Independence, choice and risk: a guide to best practice in supported decision” (May 2007).

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 extended direct payments to those people who lack capacity to consent and who are currently excluded from the scheme. These people will now be able to benefit from direct payments through the appointment of a ‘suitable person’, often a friend or relative, to receive the payment on their behalf. The Department has recently consulted on draft regulations to implement this extension which, along with revised accompanying guidance, will come into force this year.

Anyone making decisions for a person who lacks capacity, including a suitable person who receives direct payments on that person's behalf, is obliged under the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) to act at all times in the best interests of the person lacking capacity. Acting in someone's best interests includes involving them in the decision-making process as far as is reasonably practicable to make sure that the person is able to have as much input as possible into decisions about their care. Suitable persons will need to be able to demonstrate how they have spent the direct payment and councils will have the power to stop the direct payment if it is not being spent in the way which it was intended when it was made.

We are also taking action to ensure advice is made available to families who will manage direct payments on behalf of an individual who lacks capacity. The Government are making resources available under the MCA grant to councils and primary care trusts to train professionals on all aspects of working with people who lack capacity and taking best interest decisions on their behalf. Councils decide how best to use these resources on training, awareness raising and appointing specialist MCA professionals.