Care services minister Ivan Lewis (pictured) has promised to examine the issue of independent sector care home residents being evicted on false grounds.
Lewis said the government may need to change the law to prevent such evictions, after campaigners claimed people were being told to leave after they had complained about services.
He was challenged on the issue at a conference in parliament last week on the exclusion of independent sector care homes from liability under the Human Rights Act.
Age Concern’s legal policy adviser, Nony Ardill, told the event, organised by parliament’s joint committee on human rights and the British Institute of Human Rights: “There are many cases where a complaint has been made to the care home either by the resident themselves or a family member and that leads to a person being evicted. They have no protection from evictions.”
She said the lack of human rights protection for care home residents in the independent sector made this possible. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which the Human Rights Act enacts in British law, promises the right to respect for your private life and home.
Jean Gould, legal officer at Help the Aged, said: “Eviction does crop up with alarming regularity.”
Lewis said: “If people are being evicted because they are complaining about the quality of care we need to look at the policy and maybe the law.”
However, Martin Green (pictured), chief executive of the English Community Care Association, told Community Care there was no evidence of any spate of evictions from care homes.
He called on the Commission for Social Care Inspection to survey homes on this issue, but said there were times where eviction was justified, when residents were behaving antisocially. He suggested that when people complained regularly about the quality of care, it was often a sign that they had not been appropriately placed in the home.
Lewis also told last week’s conference the Department of Health would examine the growth in independent mental health in-patient services.
Mental Health Act Commission deputy chief executive Gemma Pearce had pointed out that the issue of users receiving services from independent providers not bound by the Human Rights Act was as pertinent to mental health as to care homes.
Lewis responded: “We are trying to assess the expansion of the independent sector in in-patient mental health care. We need to do work on this.”
Pearce later told Community Care that some independent providers had a strong human rights record but it was important for others to be brought up to the same standard.
CARE HOMES AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT
● Why does the Human Rights Act not apply to independent care homes?
The Human Rights Act applies to public authorities. The courts interpret this as applying only to public sector bodies, not independent sector providers of public services, such as private care homes. The most recent case was heard at the House of Lords last year .
● What are the implications of this?
Human rights groups and older people’s charities have documented abuses they claim go unpunished because of the loophole including: spurious evictions, routine overmedication and bathing of residents in the same water.
● What’s the government position?
The government says the Human Rights Act was originally intended to apply to independent providers of public services, particularly given the increasing trend for public services to be contracted out. It is proposing to bring in regulations under the Health and Social Care Bill enabling the Care Quality Commission to regulate providers against human rights standards. It also plans to legislate to bring all providers of public services under the Human Rights Act, following the forthcoming green paper on a new Bill of Rights.
● Why do campaigners object?
They say the regulatory changes will not close the loophole because residents will not be able to sue homes for breaching their human rights. Instead, they are pushing for the Health and Social Care Bill to be amended to make all health and social care providers liable under the Act.
● What is the status of self-funders?
The government’s position is that closing the loophole would only help publicly funded residents, as self-funders are not receiving the services of a “public authority”. But Help the Aged argues that self-funders are owed duties by councils under community care law meaning they should be covered by the Act.
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