Government heavily defeated over protecting disabled people from abuse by carers

The Government has been heavily defeated in the Lords over cross-party demands for disabled people to be protected from abuse by carers.

Peers backed an amendment extending protections under the Domestic Abuse Bill by 318 votes to 234, majority 84.

The defeat came despite a warning by Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford that it could significantly delay implementation of the landmark legislation.

Disabled peer Baroness Campbell of Surbiton said the vast majority of carers were “caring, compassionate and utterly loyal,” adding: “We owe them our lives.”

But, she said, in a small number of cases this was not the case and disabled people were an “easy target” for exploitation or abuse.

Lady Campbell, an independent crossbench peer and disability rights campaigner, said carers saw disabled people at their weakest and sometimes had access to their bank accounts.

In report stage debate on the Bill, she warned it would be “horribly unjust” to deny disabled people protections included in the Bill for other victims of domestic abuse.

Paralympic gold medal winner Baroness Grey-Thompson warned that if disabled people were not specifically included in the legislation they could fall through the net and be “pushed into greater peril”.

Backing the proposed change to the Bill, Tory former minister Baroness Altmann, said: “Why would someone who is cared for by another person, who may be paid or unpaid, not be entitled to the same protection as a spouse who is abused by their partner?”

Independent crossbench peer Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a former president of the British Medical Association (BMA), said the amendments would “close a loophole”.

She added: “They do not criminalise carers. They simply recognise the reality that when a person is living in their own home, with others coming in to assist with activities of daily living, including the most intimate of care, that person is potentially vulnerable to exploitation.

“Carers can be closer to and have more power over a person than a person’s own family.”

For the Opposition, Baroness Wilcox of Newport said no victim should be left behind and disabled people were among the most vulnerable.

The Bill was “flagship legislation” and disabled victims of abuse should not be left to be provided for elsewhere, Lady Wilcox said.

Lady Williams acknowledged disabled people could be especially vulnerable to abuse by carers but said remedies and protections already existed.

She warned that broadening the definition in the Bill could confuse the meaning of domestic abuse.

The minister said this would mark a “fundamental shift away from the objectives” of the Bill and risked a significant delay in its implementation.

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