Extend human rights act to help protect 700,000 abused older people, says charity

Age Concern has called for human rights protection to be extended to people in private care homes after it was revealed this week that more than 700,000 older people in the UK were abused in their own homes or in private care.

A Department of Health and Comic Relief-funded research project, which was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research and King’s College London, is expected to unveil the figure on Thursday. The research is the first of its kind to gauge the national prevalence of elder abuse.

Responding to early reports about the research, Age Concern’s director general Gordon Lishman said extending the Human Rights Act 1998  to private care homes would be one way to increase the protection of older people.

The courts have so far interpreted the act as covering public bodies only, excluding all care home residents in private provision – the vast majority – whether funded by councils or themselves.

Campaigners and government are both relying on a current House of Lords test case on whether the eviction of a publicly-funded resident from an independent care home would breach her human rights, though this is unlikely to affect self-funders. The government’s position has been that coverage should be extended to all publicly-funded residents but not self-funders.

But care services minister Ivan Lewis appeared to have gone further than the existing government line in backing the extension of human rights legislation to all residents of private care homes. He told the parliamentary joint committee on human rights last week that there were “clear gaps in terms of protection for people in private providers and self-funders”.

More information
Essential information on elderly people

MPs and peers urge Human Rights Act cover for private care home residents 

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 Simeon Brody


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