New private member’s bill to protect human rights in private care services

A private member’s bill to ensure vulnerable people in private sector care services would be protected under the Human Rights Act has been introduced in parliament today.
The Human Rights Act 1998 (Meaning of Public Authority) Bill follows a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in March that urged the government to ensure independent social care providers became subject to the Human Rights Act 1998 through fresh legislation.
The committee argued that the increasing outsourcing of public services to the independent sector meant new legislation had to be drafted.

Social care has been at the heart of the debate in successive test cases in which the courts have ruled that only public providers are bound by the act, which applies to “functions of a public nature”. A test case on whether private care homes providing services to publicly-funded residents are performing a public function and should therefore be covered by the act is currently awaiting judgement from the House of Lords.

The government is trying to limit any extension of the act beyond public bodies to independent sector care homes only, rather than other non-public providers of tax funded services.

Introducing the new bill today, Andrew Dismore, chairman of the joint committee on human rights, said: “Human rights should be protected whether services are provided by the public or private sector. My bill would clarify the law and ensure that vulnerable people – for example, in care homes – get the protection they deserve from the Human Rights Act.”

The bill’s second reading debate is due on June 15.
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