The Vulnerable Adults Act has been legislated and it would come into effect by the end of 2018. An ageing population coupled with several cases of vulnerable adults being neglected or abused in a myriad of ways had triggered the ideation of the law back in 2014. Finally, parliamentarians have deliberated on various aspects of the law, mostly affecting individual liberty and social norms, before finalizing its scope and implementation.
Adults who are physically or mentally incapable of taking care of themselves, are being abused by their family or caregivers, are incapable of deciding what is best for them or are willingly neglecting self care can now be assisted by the state in various ways. Government officers have now been empowered to intervene in such cases and work with relevant agencies to plan an appropriate response on the basis of the needs of every specific case. Government officers cannot yet take any proactive steps. They can only respond to reported cases. They can also work with social groups and community associations that regularly work with vulnerable adults, their families and caregivers. The new law does not necessitate such an escalation.
If any adult is reportedly vulnerable, found to be in need of medical care or has been suffering neglect and abuse, the government officers would not need any permission from family or from caregivers to intervene. The government officers have also been empowered to work with doctors, psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals to ensure that vulnerable adults who voluntarily reject any intervention eventually get the necessary treatment.
The parliamentarians have deliberated on the impact of the law on social norms and individual liberty. Vulnerable adults who have the mental capacity to decide what is best for them will be counseled and advised accordingly. Those who cannot decide for themselves will have their families and caregivers involved in the process. However, families and caregivers cannot choose to keep the vulnerable adult away from medical care or necessary help when the state intervenes and decides the needs of the suffering individual.
The oppositions, if any, in specific cases will have to be overcome through a legal process. The courts will decide if a particular case merits or warrants the intervention as deemed fit by officers of relevant agencies. The families and caregivers will have the opportunity to present the case in their favor but eventually the decision of the court shall stand and be executed by the government officers.
Financial abuse, which is a common concern in case of vulnerable adults, is not covered by the new law. There are laws in place already that deal with financial abuse of vulnerable adults. The financial assistance that may be necessary for vulnerable adults who cannot pay for their own care or medical intervention will be provided for by the state. The various related agencies will work on such financial assistance. However, the specifics of coverage or up to what extent and how such financial assistance will be provided are not entirely spelled out.
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