Parliament’s joint committee on human rights yesterday proposed a fresh plan to close the legal loophole which campaigners claim is leaving residents of independent care homes at risk of abuses including unjust evictions.
In a report on the Health and Social Care Bill, it proposed an amendment to ensure all independent providers of publicly funded health and social care services are liable under the Human Rights Act 1998.
Successive court rulings, most recently last June, have ruled that only public sector providers are liable under the Act – contrary to government intentions.
Residents’ rights unprotected
Human rights and older people’s groups have claimed this has left private care home residents in particular unprotected against abuses including evictions, over-medication and undignified care – though provider bodies have denied the charge.
The committee’s amendment does not go as far as an earlier amendment to the bill, proposed by Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins, which would have extended human rights protection to self-funders, though was withdrawn due to lack of support.
While the committee said self-funders should eventually be covered, it claimed parliament’s intention in passing the Human Rights Act was to ensure protection for users of publicly financed services alone.
Ministers’ solution criticised
Though ministers have committed themselves to legislate to fill the gap, the joint committee said ministers’ proposed solution – to bring forward proposals in the forthcoming green paper on a British Bill of Rights – would take too long. Campaigners have said legislation on the back of the green paper could take several years to come to fruition.
The committee also called for more general legislation to follow the Health and Social Care Bill, to ensure all outsourced public services, in whatever sector, are covered by the Human Rights Act.
The Health and Social Care Bill, whose central purpose is to introduce a merged health and social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission, will be next debated in the House of Commons on 18 February.