Adult abuse: Social workers could have entry powers

Age Cymru says 69% of elderly victims are elderly Age Cymru welcomed new powers to investigate abuse

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Social workers could be granted new powers to enter homes where they suspect adults are being abused.

The Welsh government is discussing plans for a change in the law with Whitehall departments.

It would help social services apply to the courts to enter homes and speak to people suspected of being harmed.

The charity Age Cymru welcomed the proposal, which is designed to stop other people in the property blocking access.

Professionals already have powers to intervene in cases of abuse against children.

Deputy social services minister Gwenda Thomas wants to use the Social Services and Well-being Bill - due to be published next January - to introduce similar powers for investigating cases of abuse against adults.

Details about how it will work in practice are being discussed with the UK government.

Start Quote

Introducing powers of intervention will ensure the most vulnerable members of our society are protected”

End Quote Gwenda Thomas Deputy social service minister

The legislation is intended to help social services get into a property and speak to adults they think are at risk of abuse or neglect, without being obstructed by other people in the home.

It would also introduce a duty to investigate suspicions that adults might be at risk. A similar duty was introduced in Scotland in 2007.

A Welsh government spokesman said access rights would help social services fulfil that duty and help find out whether a potential victim is making decisions freely.

'Complex'

Although there is already scope for local councils to intervene, a spokesman said that applying to the courts for warrants under common law was "complex".

"Consistency and ease of access are required," he said.

"The Welsh government is discussing with Whitehall departments the exact details of these proposals.

"We are clear however that an application of some kind will need to be made to a court before the power could be exercised."

Mrs Thomas said she was responding to a consultation on draft plans which revealed "overwhelming support" to introduce the powers.

"I do not underestimate the complexity of these proposals but I've been reassured by the overwhelming support for our plan to develop a legal framework to protect adults at risk," she said.

"Introducing powers of intervention will ensure the most vulnerable members of our society are protected."

Age Cymru has been campaigning for stronger adult protection arrangements. It estimates that 39,000 older people in Wales suffer some form of abuse

Graeme Francis, the charity's head of policy and public affairs, said: "We handed over 5,000 signatures to our campaign over to the Welsh government in June and we are pleased that the Welsh government has listened.

"The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill is an opportunity to make a difference to the lives of older people in Wales and the inclusion of these proposals would clearly reinforce the powers that the authorities have to tackle abuse."

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