HL Deb 18 July 2000 vol 615 cc972-5

138 Clause 69, page 44, line 16, after ("clinic") insert (", an independent medical agency")

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 138. My noble friend Lord Bach has pointed us in the direction of brevity at this late hour, but we do come to a very important issue which deals with a large group of amendments concerning the protection of vulnerable adults list, and, indeed, the protection of children list.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, brought to our attention a concern that workers who had been made redundant would evade referral to the appropriate list. Amendments Nos. 147 to 150, 201, 267, 271 and 273 plug this gap in both the POVA and POCA schemes. I pay tribute to the noble Lord for the intense interest he took in, and the help that he gave to the House in relation to, these particular clauses.

We also discussed in the House the need for employers who have committed misconduct to be referred to the appropriate list. Amendments Nos. 152 and 162 provide new clauses relating to the POVA and POCA schemes respectively, which enable the registration authority to make referrals to the lists.

There was also some debate about the need for the POCA scheme in particular to be extended to other services, with particular reference to day centres. Amendments Nos. 142, 144 and 161 introduce a new clause which makes comprehensive provision for the extension of the POVA scheme. Essentially, this scheme can be extended to a full range of services corresponding to those which may or must be provided by local authorities in the exercise of their social services functions and to help services that correspond to those provided by the NHS.

The Bill already requires employers not to take on a worker who is found to be on the POVA list. Amendment No. 155 places a further duty on employers requiring them to stop employing a worker in a care position should it come to light that that person is on the list.

Amendment No. 269 makes parallel provision for the POCA list, and Amendment No. 268 is a related technical amendment.

Amendment No. 156 provides for a criminal offence if a person applies for, offers to do, accepts or does any work in a care position, if they know they are on the POVA list.

There are two further areas where provision is being made for access to the POCA list once the Criminal Records Bureau comes into operation. Amendment No. 173 enables adoption agencies to screen prospective adoptive parents against the POCA list. I would argue that that is very important. In addition, this amendment also makes express provision for the registration authorities in Part II and Part V, and the councils, to screen applicants against the appropriate lists.It had always been intended that persons seeking provision under Part II of the Bill, for example, care home providers, or under Part V of the Bill, for example, day care providers, should be subject to such checks. Similarly, persons seeking to be admitted to the registers held by councils under Part IV may also be checked. Amendment No. 173 makes explicit provision for those checks.

Amendment No. 170 is a new clause which provides that a parent in receipt of a direct payment can require his local authority to undertake a check against the POCA list in respect of the carer he wishes to employ. If a parent reports, for example, that the carer has harmed his child or has placed him at risk of harm, the local authority can refer the carer for inclusion on the POCA list. But such a referral—and I stress this—can take place only after the local authority has conducted an inquiry under Section 47 of the Children Act.

Three new clauses—Amendments Nos. 153, 163 and 171—have come about principally as a result of the Waterhouse inquiry. After that inquiry, we decided that it would be prudent to enable a person to be referred to the POCA or POVA list as a result of an appropriate inquiry report. We are all sadly aware that sometimes it is only as a result of an inquiry some years after the original events occurred that the abuse is discovered and the perpetrators are identified. Amendment No. 153 enables referrals to be made in those circumstances. Amendment No. 163 enables equivalent provision for POCA.

A small group of people was referred to the consultancy index in that way as a result of the Waterhouse report. However, for technical reasons, we need to make special provision to ensure that those workers can be transferred to the new protection of children list. Amendment No. 171 has been tabled expressly for that purpose.

The final batch of amendments within this large group simply tidies up the provisions and makes consequential amendments as a result of the new provisions that I have just described.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 138.—(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

Lord Clement-Jones

My Lords, I start by welcoming Amendments Nos. 147 to 150 put down by the Government in response to the amendments of my noble friend Lord Phillips in Committee. They certainly fulfil the role which he intended his amendments to fulfil. However, on these Benches—and it is worth stating it in this instance—we regret that the Government did not listen to all of his amendments in Committee, particularly those relating to natural justice aspects which he raised so eloquently. That is especially since the Bill will now cover a wider range of people—those put onto the list as a result of an inquiry.

On these Benches, we continue to believe that some aspects of the POVA list provisions will act as a deterrent to the recruitment of care workers, but time will tell.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, we listened in particular to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. There are different views. We have always felt that we have struck the right balance between the necessary protection of young people and vulnerable adults and the ability of people so affected to have their case considered very carefully. We have provided rights of appeal. I suspect that we must agree to differ in that regard.

On Question, Motion agreed to.