On 6th July 2016 the House of Lords continued to consider the Government’s Children and Social Work Bill in Committee. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke during debate on an amendment from Labour’s Lord Warner on personal advisers. The amendment was withdrawn following debate. The Bishop said:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I rise to express not dissimilar concerns to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth. I firmly support the tenor of what is proposed, but at the same time I go back to Second Reading when the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, raised the question of foster carers. Some foster carers will rail against the professionalisation of advice. If we believe that there needs to be flexibility in the range of personal advisers, we need to beware of the Bill being so constraining that we lose that flexibility. They have to be securely and safely recruited and vetted, and we must ensure that there is ongoing support. The concern just expressed about the vulnerability of an individual personal adviser also needs to be heeded. I wanted to place on record a concern that this is something that must still be wrestled with. We have not got to the bottom of the right answer yet, either with what is in the Bill or in the guidance. This will be another example of where the guidance needs to be seen before Third Reading.
Text of the amendment:
Amendment 73, Moved by Lord Warner
73: Clause 3, page 5, line 16, at end insert—
“( ) In making available personal advisers under this Act, the Secretary of State must make regulations to provide—(a) performance standards and training for personal advisers;(b) arrangements for vetting as to their suitability before taking up posts; and(c) a publicly available register of approved personal advisers.”
Introducing the amendment, Lord Warner said:
My Lords, this is a probing amendment on an issue of great concern to me: safeguarding young people from predatory adults. Clause 3 is the first place in the Bill where I could find the term “personal advisers”, so I have grafted the amendment on to the clause to seek support in principle for the idea that personal adviser is the kind of job that could conceivably attract people with predatory intentions towards vulnerable young people.
Responding for the Government, Lord Nash said:
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for his amendment and the points that he, the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, the noble Lord, Lord Storey, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the noble Lord, Lord Wills, made about the importance of safeguarding young people from predatory adults and the qualifications, training and management of personal advisers. These are of crucial and, in the case of safeguarding, paramount importance, and I will ensure that these points are covered in our review of personal advisers, to which I have already referred in some detail. This will inform what we say at Report, although I recognise the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Wills, about flexibility and stability and will look at the worrying delays to which the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, referred in relation to vetting.