Ahead of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Stage 3 debate tomorrow, Age Cymru is calling on AMs to consider two key issues to ensure the Bill delivers better outcomes for adults at risk of abuse or neglect.
Our Policy Advisor, Amy Clifton says;
"Our Rule Out Abuse campaign called for legislation to safeguard adults at risk and strengthen adult protection processes.
"We were pleased to see many of the campaign’s recommendations reflected in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill.
"We welcome the new legislative framework on safeguarding and improved powers with regards to adults at risk of abuse or neglect; this has great potential for tackling elder abuse.
"However, we want to highlight two priority issues which we believe must be addressed at Stage 3 in order to achieve this goal and improve outcomes for vulnerable older people in Wales."
Age Cymru's concerns are:
Definition of 'Adult at risk'
Age Cymru remain very concerned that the current definition in the Bill could exclude people who do not have pre-existing care needs (but nevertheless are being abused and therefore in need of support or protection).
We support Kirsty Williams’ amendment (320) to the adult at risk definition.
The current definition states that you must have care and support needs, and be unable to protect yourself as a result of those needs – but imagine an older person finds themselves in an abusive situation and is therefore 'at risk' – if they didn’t have existing care needs prior to the abuse, they could be excluded under the current definition.
Care and support needs must not be a pre-requisite to qualify as an adult at risk – Age Cymru, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, WLGA, the NHS Confederation, and the Bill Advisory Group all agreed on this point.
The main thing amendment (320) does is to reverse the problematic order of (a), (b) and (c), meaning that ‘needs for care and support’ can occur after a person is experiencing (or is at risk of) abuse or neglect.
This reversal was recommended by the Expert Legal Advisor to the Committee at Stage 1 (Professor John Williams), the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, and Age Cymru.
It is essential that vulnerable adults are not wrongly excluded from the care, support and protection they need.
Free advocacy services for those who need them
Age Cymru believe it is vital that the Bill includes clear duties to provide access to independent advocacy services, free at the point of use.
We therefore would like to see all amendments passed, and particularly support Lindsay Whittle’s amendment (78A) to remove the inclusion of powers to charge for advocacy.
We were very disappointed to see powers to charge incorporated into the same amendment to introduce provision of advocacy services by Gwenda Thomas (78). Age Cymru urges the Welsh Government to reconsider on this point.
We, and many other third sector organisations, are strongly against allowing charges for advocacy – this would create inequality and a barrier for people who need access to services. It would work against the fundamental principles of advocacy which are to uphold rights and promote equality.
Access to independent advocacy is particularly crucial in terms of safeguarding from abuse or neglect. Adults and children at risk of abuse or neglect are amongst the most vulnerable people in our communities.
We must ensure that they are safeguarded from abuse and enabled to have a voice and to take back some control over their lives – if they were denied this due to barriers presented by charging for services; this would be a human rights issue.
We were pleased to see the Government amendments passed to remove the power to charge for information and advice from the Bill, and we strongly believe that advocacy must be treated in the same way.