The Government has now responded to the consultation exercise carried out in the summer as to whether the new Care Bill should include within it a power of entry to allow social workers to visit and speak to vulnerable adults feared to be at risk of undue influence from third parties. The consultation response is available here, but in summary its conclusions are these:
"31. The consultation showed that, as we expected, this was a very sensitive and complex issue which divided opinion.
32. We particularly noted the strength of feeling from members of the public who were against such a power, and the risk of unintended consequences highlighted by some respondents. There is also no conclusive proof that \this power would not cause more harm than good overall, even though in a very few individual cases it may be beneficial.
33. Based on the views expressed, and the qualitative evidence provided by respondents, we have concluded that the responses to the consultation did not provide a compelling case to legislate for a new power of entry. Therefore we will not be adding a safeguarding power of entry to the Care and Support Bill."
This conclusion has been welcomed with dismay by Action on Elder Abuse and the College of Social Work. We find it surprising that in its conclusions the Government did not take into account either the fact that such a power (alongside a suite of other tools) was enacted in the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007), and the Welsh Ministers propose to introduce such a power in Wales. Absent the introduction of such a power by amendment during the course of the Care Bill through Parliament, it would appear therefore that the High Court will continue to be called up on to arm social workers with such a power on a case by case basis by the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction, a very much less satisfactory position.2