Power of entry proposals supported by BASW Cymru

Social workers should be given more power to enter the homes of vulnerable adults who they suspect are being abused or neglected, BASW Cymru said.

The association has welcomed proposals being discussed by the Welsh government in the Social Services and Well-being Bill that could lead to changes to the law in Wales.

Similar measures are also currently being consulted in England under the government’s Care and Support Bill and increased powers to enter property have already been introduced in Scotland.

BASW Cymru manager Robin Moulster said: “BASW Cymru welcomes the proposals by the Welsh Government to enhance the powers of social workers so they can more effectively support vulnerable adults who are possibly being abused or neglected.

“New powers introduced through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act to enter premises will be helpful in accessing and protecting those vulnerable people sooner.”

If the new laws are introduced in Wales and England, it will allow social workers to apply to the courts to enter homes and speak to people suspected of being harmed.

They would also prevent other family members or carers from preventing access to vulnerable adults.

Such powers are already available with children suspected of being abused and Welsh deputy social services minister Gwenda Thomas is keen for them to be extended to adults.

Ms Thomas said: “I do not underestimate the complexity of these proposals but I’ve been reassured by the overwhelming support for our plan to develop a legal framework to protect adults at risk.

“Introducing powers of intervention will ensure the most vulnerable members of our society are protected.”

Although broadly welcoming the proposals, BASW England warned that new powers of entry should only “be a tool to use rarely in a very few scenarios”.

Ruth Cartwright, BASW England manager, said: “A new power of entry could have a negative impact as another element of a defensive and paternalistic safeguarding culture.

“Also, it must not be seen as a reason not to make intensive efforts to work with families and should not erode professional competent practice.”

However, Ruth Stark, manager of the Scottish Association of Social Work, said this was not the experience in Scotland where the Scottish Parliament granted new powers of entry in 2007.

“What the legislation has achieved in the very small number of cases in which it has been used is to go beyond that closed door when concerns have been raised,” she said.

BASW professional officer Joe Godden urged caution and said the full implications of introducing new powers of entry needed to be properly discussed.

“The debate that has occurred within BASW demonstrates the complexities of the situation, the ability of social workers to consider the unintended consequences of what can seem as worthwhile changes to legislation.

“It is essential that social workers engage with the Bill and use their voice to debate the details of the proposals.”