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Care Bill [HL]

Volume 748: debated on Wednesday 16 October 2013

Report (3rd Day) (Continued)

Clause 72: Prisoners and persons in approved premises etc.

Amendment 136A

Moved by

136A: Clause 72, page 61, line 18, leave out from beginning to “not” in line 19 and insert “Section 42 and 47 does”

My Lords, Amendments 136A and 136B seek to ensure that people in prison and those residing in approved premises have equivalence of care when it comes to safeguarding inquiries by local authorities. Noble Lords may remember that I raised this issue in Committee but I was a little concerned by the response I received from the Minister on that occasion. I am grateful to Jenny Talbot and her team at the Prison Reform Trust for all the support and guidance they have provided throughout.

I welcome the Government’s commitment in this Bill to place responsibility for the social care of adult prisoners with the local authority in whose area the prison is located. The Bill outlines the responsibilities of local authorities towards people in prison who have care and support needs and would ensure that people in prisons are able to access care and support on a similar basis to those in the community. However, having made such a significant and welcome commitment to the social care of prisoners, there is an anomaly in the Bill, which states that people in prison and people residing in approved premises are not to receive equivalence of care when it comes to safeguarding inquiries by local authorities. Surely denying people in prison and people residing in approved premises the benefit of an inquiry by the local authority when safeguarding concerns are raised places an already vulnerable group of individuals at even greater risk.

Of course, I understand that prisons have a whole range of safeguarding measures in place. However, when there is a real problem that a prison has not resolved, why can a local authority not have an inquiry for a person who is vulnerable and at risk? Moreover, I cannot understand why people in approved premises—in other words, people who have been released from prison and are living in the community; for example, in a probation hostel—should be excluded from local authority safeguarding inquiries. If the local authority is not responsible for safeguarding vulnerable adults in approved premises in the community, who is?

When I raised this issue in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, stated,

“if local authorities must also conduct inquiries in prisons and approved premises, we run the risk of duplicating inquiries. Prison governors and directors have the primary responsibility for preventing abuse or neglect of prisoners with care and support needs. Prison governors already have a duty to care for and safeguard prisoners. If we duplicate this responsibility, we run the risk that the lack of clarity will mean that safeguarding concerns fall between agencies”.—[Official Report, 29/7/13; col. 1585.]

I have a number of concerns about this response, two in particular. First, with regard to people in prison, the noble Baroness talked about the duplication of effort and lack of clarity. I suggest that this is simply not the case. My amendment would not limit the responsibility that prisons already have. On the contrary, their involvement on safeguarding adults boards would help to ensure shared learning and expertise, including, where necessary, the option for a safeguarding inquiry should safeguarding concerns not be resolved by the individual prison.

In fact, inquiries by local authorities should be viewed as another tool to help ensure our prisons are safe for both vulnerable prisoners and the staff who work with them. I am not suggesting that local authorities need to be directly involved in all interventions in prisons or that local safeguarding teams would need to be called upon to intervene in every safeguarding concern raised. However, directors of adult services need to be confident that their standards are consistent with those set out in the report No Secrets and any exceptions are explicit and jointly agreed. Therefore, I believe that an inquiry by a local authority will not duplicate the excellent work undertaken by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, or by the prison itself. It will complement and enhance it, and could potentially help save lives.

Secondly, the noble Baroness did not provide an answer as to who would be responsible for the safeguarding of people in approved premises, if it is not the local authority. For the sake of clarity, I will ask the question again. As I understand it, approved premises are the responsibility of the probation service and not of the prison service. Any responsibilities that prison governors have for safeguarding adult offenders end once that person is released and physically leaves the premises. As the Bill currently stands, people living in approved premises will not be the responsibility of local authorities as is everybody else who lives in the community. So if someone is living in approved premises, such as a probation hostel, and is part of the community, as is anybody else, and that person has been abused or neglected or is at serious risk, who will have the obligation to carry out a safeguarding inquiry?

In terms of safeguarding inquiries by the local authority, not providing people in prison or who reside in approved premises with the same equivalence of care as for other people in the community makes little sense. The Bill establishes that equivalence of care applies to prisoners, and this should extend to safeguarding and to how safeguarding concerns are dealt with. Local authority adult safeguarding procedures are well established within local communities and the safeguarding of people in prisons and of those residing in approved premises should not be excluded from this body of expertise.

Of course, prisons and approved premises, such as hospitals and care homes, should have their own internal safeguarding arrangements and responses to safeguarding concerns. However, by excluding prisons and approved premises from safeguarding inquiries by the local authority, prisoners and people residing in approved premises will be denied the equivalent protections afforded to other vulnerable adults. Further, the opportunity for constructive dialogue and shared learning, which some prisons and local authorities currently enjoy, may also be lost. As the Bill stands, this is a serious gap which places a very vulnerable group at risk. Therefore, I hope the Minister can provide some clarification, reassurance or, better still, accept my amendments. I beg to move.

My Lords, I hope that the Minister will take note of the very serious points which the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, has made to your Lordships tonight.

My Lords, these two amendments deal with changes to Clause 72 to impose a duty on local authorities to make safeguarding inquiries in prisons and approved premises. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for tabling these amendments. We strongly agree that a person with care and support needs should be protected against abuse or neglect wherever they live.

Prison governors and directors, and the probation trust in the case of approved premises, are responsible for safeguarding prisoners and for protecting them from abuse and neglect. They have in place procedures to follow in response to allegations of abuse or neglect, and they must provide assurance on this to the National Offender Management Service. The UK operates a comprehensive level of monitoring and scrutiny within prisons to ensure that prisoners are kept safe and secure and that governors and directors are accountable for taking steps to improve matters if necessary.

We have in place a fully independent prison inspectorate that carries out a rigorous programme of scrutiny; more than 1,700 volunteers on prison independent monitoring boards who monitor the treatment of adult prisoners; and a Prisons and Probation Ombudsman who investigates both the complaints of those in prison and all deaths that occur among prisoners. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Prison and Probation Ombudsman require assurance that safeguarding procedures are in place and their implementation provides equivalent protection to that available in the community. Investigations by the Ombudsman will provide learning to improve effectiveness. The important thing is not to impose a duty on another body to conduct inquiries in prisons and approved premises, but to ensure that the procedures within the prisons and approved premises are informed by best practice and local expertise.

The Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service have acknowledged that there is a need for improved directions on safeguarding to the Prison Service and probation trusts. They will be working with officials from my department and stakeholders to develop instructions and guidance that will give improved clarity about the roles and responsibilities of the Prison Service and probation trusts in safeguarding adults in their care. The Ministry of Justice encourages prison staff to be involved with local safeguarding adults boards, but the nature of that involvement is best determined at local level.

The Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service will be producing guidance for prison staff on safeguarding in conjunction with their partners. This will be consistent with the broader advice and guidance on safeguarding adults in the community and will ensure that the importance of active engagements with SABs is routinely reiterated to prison staff. Any particular safeguarding considerations for older prisoners and those with dementia will be part of this operational policy. The guidance will set out clear instructions on the need for structured relationships with local safeguarding boards; for example, the model being employed by Surrey, where a memorandum of understanding sets out how prison staff will benefit from the expertise of social services and local authority safeguarding teams. It will also set out how and in what instances referrals to SABs will be made.

I hope that I have reassured the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, that the existing position makes clear the responsibility and accountability for the safeguarding and protection of prisoners, and that further guidance to prisons and approved premises will bring about the improvement and joint working that we all want to see. The proposed amendments to Clause 72 are therefore not necessary and I would respectfully ask him to withdraw this amendment.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that informative response and I take on board completely the fact that prisons and the MoJ have developed some good safeguarding measures. I am pleased that further guidance is to be issued to encourage governors and directors to attend local authority safeguarding adults board meetings. I am fairly happy about prisons, prisoner safeguarding and liaison with local authorities. However, for clarification, if someone is living in approved premises, my understanding is that that has nothing to do with the prison governor or the prison because they are in the community living in, say, a bail hostel. Who has responsibility for any serious issue of neglect? I do not think that the probation service undertakes safeguarding inquiries. It would be the local authority, but this clause seems to suggest that it would not be; rather, that it would be the prison governor. That does not make sense to me, although perhaps I do not understand it completely. Of course, one assumes that the local authority would have responsibility for someone in the community, but this provision clearly states that it does not.

My Lords, the advice I have received is that the probation trust would have that responsibility.

For the record, because no one on the outside seems to have been able to give me an answer, someone would have to report to the probation trust that a person is being neglected or abused and it would carry out a safeguarding inquiry. It would not be the local authority or the prison.

Amendment 136A withdrawn.

Amendment 136B not moved.

Amendment 137 not moved.

Clause 74: Guidance

Amendment 138

Moved by

138: Clause 74, page 62, line 41, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State must have regard to the general duty of local authorities under section 1(1) (promotion of individual well-being)—

(a) in issuing guidance for the purposes of subsection (1);(b) in making regulations under this Part.”

Amendment 138 agreed.

Clause 75: Delegation of local authority functions

Amendment 138A

Tabled by

138A: Clause 75, page 63, line 26, at end insert—

“( ) In exercising any function to which an authorisation under this section relates, the person authorised is subject to the same legal obligations as the local authority.”

My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Low, wished to move these amendments. He did of course move his earlier amendment which the House decided upon, but I think that he indicated he was satisfied with my reply on these amendments. I do not want to mislead the House at all, but I believe that that is right.

Amendments 138A and 138B not moved.

Amendment 139

Moved by

139: After Clause 76, insert the following new Clause—

“Older Persons’ Commissioner

(1) In the Health and Social Care Act 2008, after section 128 insert—

“Part 2AOlder Persons’ Commissioner128A Establishment of an office of the Older Persons’ Commissioner

(1) There shall be an office of the Older Persons’ Commissioner.

(2) Schedule (The Older Persons’ Commissioner) shall have effect with respect to the Older Persons’ Commissioner.

128B Functions of the office of the Older Persons’ Commissioner

(1) The Older Persons’ Commissioner has the function under this Part of promoting the wellbeing, dignity and respect of older people and safeguarding and promoting their rights and welfare.

(2) In fulfilling their duties under subsection (1), the Older Persons’ Commissioner may review, and monitor the operation of, arrangements falling within subsection (2), (3) or (4) for the purpose of ascertaining whether, and to what extent, the arrangements are effective in promoting the wellbeing, dignity and respect, and safeguarding and promoting the rights and welfare of older people.

(3) The arrangements falling within this subsection are the arrangements made by the providers of regulated services in England, or by the Secretary of State, for dealing with complaints or representations in respect of such services made by or on behalf of older people.

(4) The arrangements falling within this subsection are arrangements made by the providers of regulated services in England, or by the Secretary of State, for ensuring that proper action is taken in response to any disclosure of information which may tend to show that, in the course of, or in connection with, the provision of regulated services to older people—

(a) that a criminal offence has been committed;(b) that a person has failed to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject;(c) that the health and safety of any person has been endangered; or(d) that information tending to show that any matter falling within one of the preceding paragraphs has been deliberately concealed.(5) The arrangements falling within this subsection are arrangements made (whether by providers of regulated services in England, by the Secretary of State or by any other person) for making persons available—

(a) to represent the views and wishes of older people to whom this Part applies; or(b) to ensure the adequate provision to older people of advice and support of any prescribed kind. (6) The Secretary of State may, by regulations confer power on the Older Persons’ Commissioner to require prescribed persons to provide any information which the Older Persons’ Commissioner considers it necessary or expedient to have for the purposes of his functions under this section.

(7) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (5) is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

128C Examination of cases by the Older Persons’ Commissioner

(1) The Secretary of State may, by regulations, make provision for the examination by the Older Persons’ Commissioner of the cases of particular older people.

(2) The regulations may include provision about—

(a) the types of case which may be examined;(b) the circumstances in which an examination may be made;(c) the procedure for conducting an examination, including provision about the representation of parties;(d) the publication of reports following an examination.(3) The regulations may, for the purposes of enabling the Older Persons’ Commissioner to examine or determine whether any recommendation made in a report following an examination has been complied with, make provision for—

(a) requiring persons to provide the Older Persons’ Commissioner with information; or(b) requiring persons who hold or are accountable for information to provide the Older Persons’ Commissioner with explanations or other assistance,for the purpose of an examination or for the purposes of determining whether any recommendation made in a report following an examination has been complied with.(4) For the purposes mentioned in subsection (3), the Older Persons’ Commissioner shall have the same powers as the High Court in respect of—

(a) the attendance and examination of witnesses (including the administration of oaths and affirmations and the examination of witnesses abroad); and(b) the provision of information.(5) No person shall be compelled for the purposes mentioned in subsection (3) to give any evidence or provide information which he could not be compelled to give or provide in civil proceedings before the High Court.

(6) The regulations may make provision for the payment by the Older Persons’ Commissioner of sums in respect of expenses or allowances to persons who attend or provide information for the purposes mentioned in subsection (3).

(7) A statutory instrument containing the first regulations made under subsection (1), (2) or (3) is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

(8) A statutory instrument that contains regulations made under subsection (6) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

128D Obstruction

(1) The Older Persons’ Commissioner may certify an offence to the High Court where—

(a) a person, without lawful excuse, obstructs him or any member of his staff in the exercise of any of his functions under regulations made under section 128B(5) or 128C; or(b) a person is guilty of any act or omission in relation to an examination under regulations made by under section 128C which, if that examination were proceedings in the High Court, would constitute contempt of court.(2) Where an offence is so certified the High Court may inquire into the matter; and after hearing—

(a) any witnesses who may be produced against or on behalf of the person charged with the offence; and(b) any statement that may be offered in defence,the High Court may deal with the person charged with the offence in any manner in which it could deal with him if he had committed the same offence in relation to the High Court.128E Further functions

(1) The Older Persons’ Commissioner may, in connection with his functions under this Part give advice and information to any person.

(2) Regulations may confer power on the Older Persons’ Commissioner to assist an older person—

(a) in making a complaint or representation to or in respect of a provider of regulated services in England; or(b) in any prescribed proceedings.(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), assistance includes—

(a) financial assistance; and(b) arranging for representation, or the giving of advice or assistance, by any person.(4) Regulations under subsection (2) may also provide for assistance to be given on conditions, including (in the case of financial assistance) conditions requiring repayment in specified circumstances.

(5) Regulations may, in connection with the Older Persons’ Commissioner’s functions under this Part, confer further functions on the Commissioner.

(6) Regulations may, in particular, include provision about the making of reports on any matter connected with any of his functions.

(7) Apart from identifying any person investigated, a report by the Older Persons’ Commissioner shall not—

(a) mention the name of any person, or(b) include any particulars which, in the opinion of the Older Persons’ Commissioner, are likely to identify any person and can be omitted without impairing the effectiveness of the report,unless, after taking account of the public interest (as well as the interests of any person who made a complaint and other persons), the Older Persons’ Commissioner considers it necessary for the report to mention his name or include such particulars.(8) For the purposes of the law of defamation, the publication of any matter by the Older Persons’ Commissioner in a report is absolutely privileged.

(9) In subsection (1) of this section “proceedings” includes a procedure of any kind and any prospective proceedings.

(10) A statutory instrument containing the regulations under this section is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

128F Restrictions

(1) This Part does not authorise the Older Persons’ Commissioner to enquire into or report on any matter so far as it is the subject of legal proceedings before, or has been determined by, a court or tribunal.

(2) This Part does not authorise the Commissioner to exercise any function which by virtue of an enactment is also exercisable by the prescribed person.

128G Interpretation

(1) For the purposes of this Part “regulated services” has the same definition as “regulated activity” in section 8 of this Act as they relate to older people.

(2) This Part applies to any older person normally domiciled in England.”

(2) After Schedule 5, insert the following new Schedule—

Schedule 5AThe Older Persons’ CommissionerStatus1 (1) The Older Persons’ Commissioner is to be a corporation sole.

(2) The Older Persons’ Commissioner is not to be regarded as the servant or agent of the Crown or as enjoying any status, immunity or privilege of the Crown; and the Older Persons’ Commissioner’s property is not to be regarded as property of, or property held on behalf of, the Crown.

Appointment and tenure of office2 Regulations may make provision—

(a) as to the appointment of the Older Persons’ Commissioner (including any conditions to be fulfilled for appointment);(b) as to the filling of vacancies in the office of Commissioner;(c) as to the tenure of office of the Older Persons’ Commissioner (including the circumstances in which he ceases to hold office or may be removed or suspended from office).Remuneration3 The Secretary of State shall—

(a) pay the Commissioner such remuneration and allowances; and(b) pay, or make provision for the payment of, such pension or gratuities to or in respect of him, as may be provided for under the terms of his appointment.Staff4 (1) The Commissioner may appoint any staff he considers necessary for assisting him in the exercise of his functions, one of whom shall be appointed as deputy Commissioner.

(2) During any vacancy in the office of Commissioner or at any time when the Commissioner is for any reason unable to act, the deputy Commissioner shall exercise his functions (and any property or rights vested in the Commissioner may accordingly be dealt with by the deputy as if vested in him).

(3) Without prejudice to sub-paragraph (2), any member of the Commissioner’s staff may, so far as authorised by him, exercise any of his functions.

General powers5 (1) Subject to any directions given by the Secretary of State, the Commissioner may do anything which appears to him to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of, or in connection with, the exercise of his functions.

(2) That includes, in particular—

(a) co-operating with other public authorities in the United Kingdom;(b) acquiring and disposing of land and other property; and(c) entering into contracts.Reports6 Regulations may provide for the Commissioner to make periodic or other reports to the Secretary of State relating to the exercise of his functions and may require the reports to be published in the manner required by the regulations.

Accounts7 (1) The Older Persons’ Commissioner must keep accounts in such form as the Secretary of State may determine.

(2) The Older Persons’ Commissioner must prepare annual accounts in respect of each financial year in such form as the Secretary of State may determine.

(3) The Older Persons’ Commissioner must send copies of the annual accounts to the Secretary of State and the Comptroller and Auditor General within such period after the end of the financial year to which the accounts relate as the Secretary of State may determine.

(4) The Comptroller and Auditor General must examine, certify and report on the annual accounts and must lay copies of the accounts and of his report before Parliament.

(5) In this paragraph “financial year”, in relation to the Older Persons’ Commissioner, means—

(a) the period beginning with the date on which the Older Persons’ Commissioner is established and ending with the next 31st March following that date; and(b) each successive period of twelve months ending with 31st March.Payments8 The Secretary of State may make payments to the Older Persons’ Commissioner of such amounts, at such times and on such conditions (if any) as he considers appropriate.

General9 In the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, in Part III of Schedule 1 (certain disqualifying offices), the following entries are inserted at the appropriate places—

“Older Persons’ Commissioner.”“Member of the staff of the Older Persons’ Commissioner.”10 In the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975, the same entries as are set out in paragraph 9 are inserted at the appropriate places in Part III of Schedule 1.

11 (1) Regulations may provide that the office of Older Persons’ Commissioner shall be added to the list of “Offices” in Schedule 1 to the Superannuation Act 1972 (offices etc. to which section 1 of that Act applies).

(2) The Secretary of State shall pay to the Minister for the Civil Service, at such times as he may direct, such sums as he may determine in respect of any increase attributable to provision made under sub-paragraph (1) in the sums payable out of money provided by Parliament under the Superannuation Act 1972.””

My Lords, given the hour I do not intend to detain the House for long, but I want to return to the subject of an older person’s commissioner, an issue raised so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, at an earlier stage in our deliberations. I do so for the same reason that many noble Lords have raised issues in connection with this Bill. The issues remain the same, but the legislative landscape is changing quite considerably, and the practical nature of services for people who will be affected by the Bill is also changing radically. Given these immense changes, coupled with the demographic developments that we know about, it is important to remind ourselves that there are still some gaps in the representation and protection of vulnerable groups in our society that need to be addressed.

I have not been involved in the Children and Families Bill, which I regret somewhat, and particularly today because the Grand Committee has been talking about the establishment of a children’s commissioner for England. Earlier on I looked at the proposal in some detail. It seeks the establishment of a person who is not a Crown employee and whose job will be to promote and protect the rights of children, and to have regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Their primary job is to involve children who are living away from home or are in social care and to make known their views about their care. They do that by taking a systematic and thematic view of what is happening, and their job is to speak to government with the overall aim of improvement.

There is nothing there which is not needed by older people. I am going to talk about the fact that there is a raft of other bodies which have statutory duties in relation to older people, but there is a raft of bodies which have responsibilities in relation to care of children—not least of which is Ofsted. Despite children’s rights being perhaps more strongly enshrined in law, as they have been since the Children Act, we still need a Children’s Commissioner. The fact remains that we need an older person’s commissioner, too. We need somebody to be an advocate, to include older people and to talk to government. I do not want to pre-empt anything that might happen in your Lordships’ House tomorrow, but the report of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, is being debated. It sets out in fairly stark terms how ill prepared government is for the implications of an ageing society.

Had another group of amendments before us on Report been dealt with in a different way, I might have rowed back. Your Lordships’ House decided the other day not to give powers of entry in cases where there is good reason to suspect that older people are being abused. I believe as firmly and as strongly as the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, that that is absolutely wrong. If we are not going to give powers of entry in cases of abuse, then there is a case for there being an older person’s commissioner to raise those issues and gather evidence. Let us be in no doubt there will be further, tragic cases of elder abuse, and in the wake of them there will be calls for something to be done. Well, I think that something can be done now in the form of this proposal.

When we next convene to discuss this Bill on Report, we will turn our attention to some amendments tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, on behalf of the Government about the appointment of the chief inspectors. The appointment of chief inspectors as officers within the CQC is welcome. It is welcome that there is going to be a Chief Inspector of Hospitals; it is a good thing that there is going to be Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care—I imagine that we have begun to receive information from the Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, who took up her position this week. But let us be in no doubt that, however independent, experienced and formidable are the individuals, their role is limited. The CQC investigates merely licensed providers; it does not even investigate pathways of care. We know that the majority of care and help in the future will take place in the community—that is where the bulk of older people will be. Those chief inspectors will have but a very limited role, however welcome is their appointment.

If I were in the Minister’s shoes, I imagine that I would question whether the cost of setting up a commissioner makes it a valid thing to do. I sincerely hope that we will very soon be able to gather evidence from the commissioners, particularly the Older People’s Commissioner, in Wales. I know it has not been set up with this particularly in mind but I hope that somebody, somewhere, begins to research the economic benefit of having an older persons’ commissioner. We are going to have to look at the whole economics of ageing in a completely different way. The post of a commissioner could be very important and it would help if we started to move Government along to seeing older people as potentially economic assets in our country as well as people who need services. With that in mind, I beg to move.

I rise to support this amendment as I think the House would expect me to because I put forward a similar amendment during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill.

So here we are again. Time rolls on. I want to refer to the annual report I wrote in 2008-09 about the job I had as the Voice of Older People. I wrote that the job had proved a bombshell. Within hours of the announcement being made responses began. Letters, encounters, meetings and seminars showed me the range of cares particular to older people. At that time equality was my agenda and the issues were about the promotion of things such as equality in retirement, pensions and equal pay. However, concerns rapidly expanded. In no time at all I was being inundated with dilemmas about care homes, housing, rent levels and public loos. Expatriates were writing to me about claiming their pensions. End-of-life treatment was on the agenda again.

This agenda has not gone away. It is growing and it will go on doing so. We will hear tomorrow about the implications of the demographic and right now we are awaiting the ramifications of the Dilnot report. There is a campaign to get older people online, led by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. There are concerns about fuel prices. I have recently read that E.ON, with which I have a special deal for a limited price because I am old, is withdrawing that favour from older people. Why? Breast cancer is very much on the agenda for older people. The risk improves the older you get but it does not reduce after 70 or 75. It goes on being a killer and becomes more seriously so.

Which Bill that will come before the House can encompass this vast agenda of the entire population that is growing old? This is a very difficult problem for the matter of law. We need a commissioner who can embrace housing, pensions, health, welfare and money. We need someone who can listen. The main thing about a commissioner is that they are not the spokesman for the established government—they are about us. They speak to government about what it is we want, what it is we would like, and on what we need guidance. The agenda is huge.

I am well aware that there is a multitude of charitable organisations that deal with all sorts of this fragmented agenda. I pay particular tribute to Age UK which is very, very strong in dealing with these issues, but what we need is for our complaints to be funnelled through an individual who belongs on the side of the old, who addresses the rest of the community about all these issues. I know that the Minister knows that the agenda is a wide one. What we need to know is where we can place this need—on which Bill and in which House? I support the amendment.

I rise very briefly to explain why I added my name to this amendment. I feel strongly that older people need their own advocate and it needs to be someone with real clout and real powers. The experience of the children’s commissioner to which my noble friend Lady Barker has already referred is very relevant here. I was a civil servant in Whitehall for a long time. There were many different departments dealing with different aspects of children’s policy but no one was joining it all up. When the children’s commissioner came on the scene, the commissioner became a strong advocate of the cause of children and young people across the UK and caused Whitehall and government to respond in a different, more joined-up way.

I had the honour to be a member of the Select Committee that produced the Ready for Ageing? report. I very much look forward to the debate on that tomorrow. During its production, I learnt so much about the contribution that older people are making to society. To cite three quick figures: one in three working mothers relies on grandparents for childcare; 65% of older people support their older neighbours; the value of informal care provided by older people has been assessed to be £34 billion, and so many volunteers are older people. We do not hear about that. What do we hear about in the press? We hear about older people who are a terrible burden because they are consuming so much of scarce national resources. We hear about the graph of doom. It all sounds like a looming catastrophe. We do not hear about the incredibly valuable contribution that older people are making.

That is why I believe that older people need an advocate. Yes, it is to champion the great needs of an ageing society in public policy-making in central and local government; but it is also someone who can represent them, who understands their needs and can celebrate their values and achievements and, I hope, turn around the whole narrative that we have in this country about older people.

My Lords, we are very sympathetic to what the noble Baronesses, Lady Barker and Lady Tyler, and my noble friend Lady Bakewell want to achieve through the amendment in promoting the well-being, dignity, rights and welfare of older people. My noble friend Lady Bakewell, in particular, has campaigned long and hard for an older person’s commissioner and, as the Voice of Older People under the Labour Government, speaks first-hand about the job that needs to be done in government to join up policies on health, social care, housing, transport, welfare, work and pensions to address the economic and social challenges presented by an ageing society.

The importance of a cross-government overview and strategy on older people is why Labour has a shadow Cabinet Minister for Care and Older People. Liz Kendall has a vital role in ensuring joined-up policies across the range of services that must be changed and adapted to meet older people’s growing and changing needs. The importance of developing a coherent strategy and vision for our old age was recently underlined by the excellent report of the Select Committee on Public Services and Demographic Change, referred to by the noble Baronesses, Lady Barker and Lady Tyler. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, is entirely right to say that in Ready for Ageing? the committee described the UK and its society as being “woefully underprepared”. It pointed out that the implications of an ageing society had not been assessed holistically and that it had been left to government departments,

“who have looked, in varying degrees, at the implications for their own policies and costs”.

The committee called on the Government to look at ageing from the point of view of the public and to consider how,

“policies may need to change to equip people better to address longer lives”.

When we consider that important report tomorrow, the role of an older person’s commissioner in helping to face the future and meet the challenges so graphically set out by the committee and today will be a key part of that debate

A considerable amount of work and thought has gone into the drafting of Amendment 139, but the main emphasis seems to be on rights and redress, rather than the all encompassing and unique role envisaged by my noble friend Lady Bakewell in her Second Reading speech and earlier today. That would give the commissioner effective access to planning across different government departments.

We would prefer that broad approach, and, of course, we also need to learn from the experience of the older person’s commissioners in Wales and Northern Ireland. We understand that the advocacy role has worked particularly well in Wales in promoting the rights and interests of older people and challenging discrimination.

Inevitably, costs are an important consideration. The older person’s commissioner’s salary, operational support and accountability costs would be significant. I would be interested to learn from the noble Earl whether the Government have undertaken any costing and impact work on that, as promised to my noble friend when she first raised this issue, as she said, under the Health and Social Care Bill.

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this extremely well crafted amendment, which proposes the establishment of an older persons’ commissioner. Our ambition is to make this country one of the best places to grow old in and I begin by saying that I have some sympathy with the intention behind the amendment; to ensure that older people receive the high-quality care they need and also to support them to use the complaints system effectively when things go wrong. However, disappointingly for the noble Baronesses, I cannot subscribe to the solution that is proposed in the amendment. The main reason for this is that the provisions contained in the amendment are, by and large, covered by work already being undertaken elsewhere. The interests of service users are already protected through a number of routes.

I begin by citing the role of the CQC. The Care Quality Commission’s role is to ensure providers of regulated activities in England provide people with safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care. The new chief inspectors for hospitals, adult social care and general practice will champion the views of patients and service users and judge the quality of care. Then, separate from the CQC, the new chief social worker will ensure that social work practice is directly inputting into policy development and we now have Healthwatch, whose function it is to represent service users’ views. If noble Lords look at what we are doing in the Bill, new statutory obligations are being introduced, such as the duties to establish safeguarding adults boards and to undertake safeguarding inquiries and/or reviews. We also have the government amendment to require independent advocacy in certain cases.

Looking beyond the Bill, the vulnerable older people’s plan is working towards having an accountable clinician to ensure proactive care planning for older people and those with the most complex needs. Furthermore, we want older people to have a major voice in issues that affect them. The Minister for Care and Support and the Pensions Minister take part in the UK Advisory Forum on Ageing. This group gives Ministers the opportunity to engage with and hear directly from older people on the key issues affecting them. I suggest that all these steps, taken together, go a considerable way towards addressing the concerns at which the amendment is aimed, but I need to be clear that, to minimise the impact on the public purse, we would not envisage setting up a new public authority alongside those functions.

My noble friend Lady Barker asked why we should not have an older persons’ commissioner since there is a children’s commissioner? If an older persons’ commissioner were established, the supporting structure would potentially be very large and would cost significantly more than the children’s commissioner. This is not only because of the comparatively larger number of older people who receive services compared to children, but also because the amendment confers a wider range of functions on the older persons’ commissioner than the children’s commissioner.

Michelle Mitchell, former director-general of Age UK said last year:

“For us it’s not just about having a commissioner; it’s about ensuring that older people’s issues are central to the mainstream – not only the government agenda, but business and the public sector as a whole”.

I support that view. What matters, surely, is what is actually happening and whether the system is pulling together to make it happen. We want to ensure, quite simply, that issues affecting older people are at the heart of government business. I am happy to explore ways to further enhance the voice of older people, although without creating additional costly bureaucracies. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baronesses will feel somewhat comforted that there is a lot going on to protect the interests of older people and that my noble friend will therefore feel able to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his characteristically comprehensive response and I am in complete agreement with him: there is a great deal going on, much of which is valuable and effective. I return to the central issue: I am not convinced that there is coherence, either within government, across government or in government interactions with the private and voluntary sectors and with local government. That is the issue to which I will return, and it is a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, has made so eloquently.

I accept that this amendment is not perfect; it was crafted in order to bring the older persons’ commissioner within the scope of the Bill but it is not ideal. I thank the Minister for his response. We will continue to work away at this issue, I have no doubt. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 139 withdrawn.

Amendment 140

Moved by

140: Before Clause 77, insert the following new Clause—

“Duty of candour

In section 20 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (regulation of regulated activities), after subsection (5) insert—“(5A) Regulations under this section must make provision as to the provision of information in a case where an incident of a specified description affecting a person’s safety occurs in the course of the person being provided with a service.””

My Lords, this amendment concerns the new statutory duty of candour. This will place a requirement on registered providers of health and adult social care to be open with patients and service users about failings in care. The Francis report made a clear recommendation that there should be a statutory obligation to observe a duty of candour on providers of healthcare who believe that treatment or care provided by them to a patient has caused death or serious injury. This would require the provider to inform the patient of that fact. This amendment is a major step towards implementing that key recommendation of the Francis report.

The Government’s approach is to introduce this duty as a requirement for registration with the CQC. In Committee, noble Lords tabled amendments that sought to place the duty of candour in the Bill. The amendment that I am presenting today seeks to strike a balance; I make no apology for that, since it allows us to have the best of both worlds. The amendment tabled in my name makes it clear that the Government must introduce such a regulation. It does not present the Government with a choice; rather, it imposes a crystal clear obligation on the Government to put such a regulation in place. I hope that it will be welcome to noble Lords for those reasons. I beg to move.

My Lords, the duty of candour means honesty and straightforwardness. We desperately need an open, honest, transparent and compassionate health service, and I hope that Amendments 140 and 152 will help to achieve that.

Something has gone desperately wrong with the care in some hospitals and care homes. We now live in a litigious society, and I feel that that has been increased by cover-ups when something has gone wrong and gagging people who try to speak out. People will go to any lengths to find out what happened to their loved ones if they are not told and given an apology. Good medical personnel will explain and apologise if something adverse happens. So often, that is all that is needed.

Patients know that there are risks, if they are explained when they sign a consent form. When they go wrong, lessons should be learnt so that they do not happen again. That is one of the reasons why openness is so important. Have lessons been learnt after the horrific situation of the Mid Staffordshire hospital? Recently I heard of a former police superintendent who had had a brain injury due to an accident, and was a patient in a well known central London hospital. When his wife and young son went to visit him, they smelt him before they saw him. They found him facing the wall in bed, unable to move and lying in soiled sheets and wearing a filthy gown. His wife was so upset that she told a nurse, who just said that they were overworked. The next time the wife visited she found him sitting alone, facing a curtain, looking miserable and wearing a pad that had not been changed. She said to her children, “We are taking Daddy home”, and smuggled him out of the hospital.

Where was the compassion? How many such cases are there throughout the country? I refer to the Francis report, which calls for a common culture to be shared throughout the system. These three characteristics are required: openness, enabling concerns to be raised and disclosed freely, without fear, and questions to be answered; transparency, allowing true information about performance and outcomes to be shared with staff, patients and the public; and candour, ensuring that patients harmed by a healthcare service are informed of the fact and an appropriate remedy is offered, whether or not a complaint has been made or a question asked about it. That requires all organisations and those working in them to be honest, open and truthful in all their dealings with patients and the public.

I am pleased that progress has been made since I moved a similar amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill. It is about time that the recommendations of the Francis report were put into operation.

My Lords, the Opposition strongly support the thrust of the Francis report in its determination that the NHS be honest with patients who have been harmed. I very much echo the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, in describing why we need an open culture. I welcome government Amendment 140. It is very important; we welcome the duty of candour being placed in the Bill. The amendment is less detailed than my own and will rely on regulations, as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has said. The important thing is to get this in the Bill.

I have a couple of questions for the noble Earl. First, can he confirm that the regulations will be affirmative? Secondly, in considering the regulations, will he look at the issue of the threshold? For instance, the regulations might restrict the statutory duty of candour to cases that could be described as of severe harm or fatal; or it might go wider. In his report, Robert Francis used the word “serious”. Clearly, there is a distinction between severe harm and seriousness, but most patients and their relatives, or anyone involved in anything that could be described as a serious case, would wish the organisation in the health service to be as open as possible about what had happened.

These are not easy issues; but it is noticeable that the being open guidance is clear that cases of moderate harm and above must be disclosed. The NHS constitution does not put any limit on the level of harm that would be disclosed. I do not expect the noble Earl to respond to the detail of those questions tonight, but in drafting the regulations it would be reassuring to know, first, that consultation will take place with patient groups on the contents of those regulations before they are published and, secondly, that the question of the threshold by which the seriousness of the case would come within the regulations will be given very great consideration.

I should—at the end of the day rather than the start—declare my interest. I remind noble Lords of the interest I declared two days ago.

I have a quick follow-up to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. Sir Robert Francis’s recommendations were clear that the duty of candour should apply where death or serious harm “may have been caused” or were believed or suspected to have been caused. That is an important distinction; it is not merely playing with words. When the Minister comes to respond, perhaps in writing, will he say whether that point will be covered in regulations?

My Lords, I am sure that we are all aiming for the same effect and that there is little difference in the approach that we are taking. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is drafted as a stand-alone duty: it would place a duty of candour on providers, but it would operate outside of the CQC registration system. As such, it is not clear who would enforce the duty of candour or what would be the consequences for a provider who did not observe the duty.

Introducing the duty as a requirement for registration with the CQC comes with a ready-made enforcement vehicle, including the power to prosecute providers who do not meet the duty. In Committee, we explained why this is our preferred approach. It would give the flexibility to develop the duty in consultation with service users and carers. I can indeed confirm that patient groups will be included. The duty itself will have the same legal power in secondary legislation as it would in primary legislation.

We are making real progress in taking this forward. In the summer, the CQC consulted on plans to introduce a duty of candour set through its registration requirements. The CQC is due to publish the findings from the consultation shortly. The department plans to consult on a draft regulation later in the autumn. I assure noble Lords that both I and my officials would be pleased to discuss the content of the draft duty of candour regulation with them in detail as we develop the final regulation. I confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that these will be affirmative regulations.

On the threshold, both the Francis and the Berwick reports recommended that the statutory duty of candour for CQC-registered providers should apply in instances of death or serious injury/incident. There is a balance to be struck. We accept the Berwick report finding that an automatic duty of candour covering every single error could lead to defensive documentation and large bureaucratic overheads that would distract from care.

I hope that my amendment reassures noble Lords of our strong commitment to introducing a duty of candour and that they will feel able—

Can I take it that, if that is the Government’s position, which will be set out in regulations, guidance to the providers of services regulated by the CQC would none the less make it clear that the principle of candour would apply to all such cases? I can see the distinction with regard to the seriousness of the incident in relation to the action that can be taken. The risk would be that a statutory duty of candour within the regulations might be taken the wrong way for cases which were not classified at such a serious level.

I certainly take the noble Lord’s point. There is an issue of interpretation which we will want to clarify through guidance. That is what we intend to do. I look forward to discussing this with him and other interested noble Lords in due course. I hope that that will be sufficient to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, not to press his amendment when we get to it.

Amendment 140 agreed.

Clause 77: Warning notice

Amendment 141 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 9.24 pm.