Our work in the care system is governed by the legal system and you will be familiar with the laws to which we work. However, with respect to protecting vulnerable adults in care, the legal framework provides only guidelines with respect to rights and service provision but not specifically mention protection.
The following laws provide guidance as to the rights and requirements for service provision but there was limited mention of protection until the Care Standards Act was published in 2000. This Act set out the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) scheme, which was then implemented on a phased basis from 26 July 2004.
– National Assistance Act 1948
– Mental Health Act 1983
– Mental Health Bill 2004
– Mental Capacity Act 2005
– Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1986
– Disability Discrimination Act 1995
– NHS Community Care Act 1990
– Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
– Adult Support and Protection Act (Scotland) 2007
These laws have developed over a number of years and occasionally come about as a response to cases of concern being highlighted in the media. This has led to an alarming number of changes to law over time as a result of investigations into abuse in institutions and towards individuals. Clearly things had to change and the response by government was to address the protection of adults through guidelines and policy documents. The year 2000 and a couple of years leading up to this date saw several publications from the government all seeking to address the issue of adult abuse.
The Human Rights Act of 1998 aimed to protect adults from abuse and, if we a role in the public sector, we also have responsibility to comply with this Act. It does not apply to those who work for private providers or who provide services to direct payment users. These services are not liable for prosecution under this Act for abuses of human rights although the government is expected to review this situation soon.
The government’s White Paper Modernising Social Services, published at the end of 1998, sought to provide better protection for individuals needing care and support but it was with express intention of addressing the need for greater protection to victims and witnesses of abuse that the government actively implemented the measures proposed in Speaking up for Justice, a report on the treatment of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses in the criminal justice system.
Quality of care for vulnerable adults was set to improve in a marked way because of these new initiatives, not least because of the changes to staff training, quality controls and the response by professional bodies to address codes of practice to bring them into line with National Minimum Standards.