Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

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Mr. Lammy: I have tried to make it clear that I do not want to be too prescriptive about what is, after all, an independent body. The hon. Gentleman asked whom on the new body a Member of Parliament would contact. As with other NHS bodies, a Member of Parliament would rightly direct his inquiries to the chair of the organisation. I repeat, however, that the new inspectorates should determine their own arrangements. The commission has appointed high-powered bodies and individuals to take up those posts, and it is their responsibility to determine such matters as they progress.

Mr. Burstow: I just wanted to pick up on the Under-Secretary's point about the timetable for the Commission for Social Care Inspection. I have here a download from a Government website from this morning that shows the timetable for the appointment of the chair, commissioners and chief inspector—April 2003 for the chair, May 2003 for the commissioners and June 2003 for a chief inspector. We are now in June, and none of those three things has happened.

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That is at variance with what the Under-Secretary has just told us.

Mr. Lammy: I do not think that it is at variance. I said that the social care inspectorate is behind CHAI—as it were—for several reasons. It is a different organisation. At the end of the day, it is up to the shadow chair of CHAI to determine and prescribe how that organisation goes forward. We are in the business of appointing a chair for CSCI and, as I have explained, we hope to be able to do so shortly. I am quite sure that the new bodies will come to fruition some time next year.

Clearly, timings are always indicative when setting up an organisation. That is why the organisations are in shadow and working together. We are talking about significant new bodies coming together to create the new inspectorates. There will be slippage; I do not think that it is worth making the political point. Subject to the passage of the Bill, which is, to some extent, in the hands of the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), we will some time next year have new, functioning inspectorates for the NHS and social care.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6

CSCI: supplementary

Mr. Burstow: I beg to move amendment No. 433, in

    schedule 6, page 114, line 17, at end insert—

    '(4) The CSCI must adopt the Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as the principles upon which actions taken or decisions made by or on behalf of CSCI which affect the rights and welfare of any child receiving service regulated under Parts II, III and VIII of the Care Standards Act 2000 must be based in all situations not specifically covered by primary legislation, Regulations or National Minimum Standards.'.

The amendment probes Government thinking on the applicability of the UN convention on the rights of the child to CSCI's discharging its responsibilities, both in dealing with regulated services and in inspecting social services authorities. I draw to the Committee's attention the fact that the National Care Standards Commission recently chose to adopt the articles of the UN convention in its board proceedings so that, when taking decisions or actions not directly informed by or governed by regulations, national minimum standards or statutory provisions, it had regard—as it should—in discharging its responsibilities to the promotion of the welfare of children and the safeguarding of their interests.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will not, as I suspect, tell me that the Government wish to maintain as much flexibility as possible for CSCI and therefore do not wish the amendment to be made, but that he will—as an advocate of children's rights—encourage that new body to give due regard to what its predecessor did.

I have a few questions for the Under-Secretary on that subject, particularly about the role of the children's rights director in the new social care inspection framework. In the National Care

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Standards Commission the director has responsibility for all regulated services that deal with children. Will the children's rights director have responsibility for all services—in so far as they deal with children—that are covered by the new body? The responsibilities for regulated services are being transferred directly from the existing legislation; what I want to know is whether the children's rights director will have a locus in the new responsibilities to inspect social services and social services providers not regulated by the Care Standards Act 2000. The Bill is not entirely clear on that, so it would be helpful to establish how far the writ of the director will run and whether changes to the regulations will be required.

This probing amendment is intended to secure the Government's support for the principle that a body with the promotion and safeguarding of children's rights at its heart should—wherever practical and possible—follow the UN convention and be guided by it.

Mr. Lammy: First, I commend the principle behind the amendment: that CSCI decisions about children receiving social services should be based on the convention—that is admirable. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the UK is a signatory to that treaty—as are most other countries. I have no doubt that the management of CSCI, as experts in children's services, will be well aware of the principles of the treaty and that their day-to-day decisions will be informed by that.

The UN convention on the rights of the child is an international treaty that was signed between national Governments. Therefore, it would be totally inappropriate to give a public body the role of interpreting it—as the amendment would do. That is a matter for the Government of the day alone. If the National Care Standards Commission has decided to adopt the convention, that is its right, and is admirable. There is no reason why the new social services inspectorate could not do the same, but that could be done without legislation.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the children's rights director. He will continue with his functions, which are set out in current regulations, and the future role of that position will be decided by the chair and the board as part of their broader functions. We will be informed of their views and consequently we may amend regulations as necessary.

For the reasons that I have given, I shall urge right hon. and hon. Members to vote against the amendment if the hon. Gentleman presses it to a Division.

Mr. Burstow: I expected the Under-Secretary to do no less. As I said at the outset, the probing amendment was intended to secure at least an indication that the Under-Secretary agrees that the adoption of the convention by the National Care Standards Commission was a worthy decision. I believe that it was more than worthy: the convention is a practical and useful aid to its decision-making processes. I encourage the CSCI to adopt the convention, and I hope that the Government will do the same when they

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come to give it further guidance. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 341, in

    schedule 6, page 115, line 12, leave out from 'CSCI' to end of line 13.—[Mr. Lammy.]

Mr. Burstow: I beg to move amendment No. 432, in

    schedule 6, page 115, line 15, at end insert—

    '(2A) The CSCI must also appoint a Vulnerable Adults Rights Director who is to be an employee of CSCI and is to have such functions as may be prescribed.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 389, in

    clause 72, page 28, line 14, at end insert—

    '(ee) the need to safeguard and promote the rights and welfare of vulnerable adults;'.

Amendment No. 390, in

    clause 72, page 28, line 16, leave out

    'purpose specified in paragraph (e)'

    and insert

    'purposes specified in paragraphs (e) and (ee)'.

Amendment No. 376, in

    clause 101, page 40, line 41, at end insert

    'and the need to safeguard and promote the rights and welfare of vulnerable adults.'.

Mr. Burstow: The amendments deal with the rights of vulnerable people, particularly vulnerable adults. They would create a similar duty to safeguard and promote the rights of vulnerable adults as that for children under the Bill as drafted. Liberal Democrat Members believe that that is a glaring omission, which should be dealt with—by accepting the amendment or by tabling a similar one—in order to ensure that CSCI and the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection have a clear focus on the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable adults.

There is a view that to do so for the rights of vulnerable children is necessary and proper but that there is no need to give similar priority to vulnerable adults. That will cause problems in operational work, so I encourage the Government to give serious thought to trying to ensure that, in the work of both commissions, adult services and adult service users rights are to the fore. Having a children's rights director on a statutory basis and backed up by regulations will be of great benefit. It will enable that office-holder to do things and push issues unlike any other present office-holder in CSCI or the National Care Standards Commission. The amendments would establish a specific office in CSCI for a director for the rights of vulnerable adults, and stipulate requirements on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of vulnerable adults.

Will the Under-Secretary explain whether he feels that the amendments will in some way fetter the discretion of either commission? Why is it perfectly acceptable to fetter their discretion in discharging

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responsibilities on the rights of children, but not right to do so when it comes to safeguarding the rights of vulnerable adults? What distinction are the Government drawing? What is the philosophical difference that results in different approaches? I hope that the Under-Secretary can explain that to the Committee and I look forward to his response.

 
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