Vulnerable adults – another opportunity for change?

As many will know, I spent a considerable part of 2017 seeking to persuade the Law Commission to take forward a project on vulnerable adults as part of their 13th programme of Law Reform.  I was, ultimately, unsuccessful, although the material that was sent to me in response to various calls for help – for which I am very grateful – reinforced me in my belief that the intensely complex issues that arise are crying out for proper consideration (and you can hear me talk about them here).

The reason that I (together with the Association for Real Change and Autism Together, who joined in my bid) did not succeed was, as the Law Commission explained, that the “for any project the Commission wishes to undertake we must have support from the Government under a Protocol agreed in 2010. This states that the Government must have a serious intention to take forward law reform in the relevant area of work. In the case of your project, the Commission was unable to secure Protocol support from Government.”

However, law reform is now being proposed by Government that is so closely related that I will be trying again, and, again, invite your help, although in a slightly different fashion to before.

The Home Office and Ministry of Justice are consulting on “Transforming the response to domestic abuse,” the consultation closing on 31 May. My proposal, in response to this consultation, is a modest one, namely to suggest that alongside domestic abuse should be recognised a concept that I am (perhaps inelegantly) calling “proximity abuse.” I should emphasise that I am not, in this, seeking to distract from the vitally important work that is being done in relation to domestic abuse.  Rather, I am asking us to recognise that the work that has been done over time to recognise the patterns and consequences of this abuse and the insights that have been gained can – and should – be applied in the context of those vulnerable adults who are subject to abuse and exploitation at the hands of those who are either living in close proximity to them, or who have been groomed or otherwise manipulated into believing that the perpetrator has their interests at heart when the opposite is self-evidently the case.

My draft answer to the consultation question on the proposed statutory definition of statutory abuse is here.   If you agree with its basic thrust, do please feel free to adopt / adapt it for purposes of putting in your own response, whether personal or corporate (but do please note that I may well be refining this over the next month before I submit, so you may want to check back every so often to make sure you’ve got the most recent version).

I am afraid that my current (over) commitments mean that I will not be able to take on the same information-gathering role that I did in relation to the vulnerable adults proposal to the Law Commission, but if you have examples that you submitted before and would like to re-use them, then this may be a useful opportunity.   Similarly, if you feel that this is an area of importance, please raise this with your local MP, and feel free to use this briefing on the current gaps in the law.

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