Social care staff and providers would face prosecution for ill-treating or wilfully neglecting adults or children in their care, under government proposals designed to fill a gap in the law.
Under the plans, care home, home care or day care providers, or their staff, would be liable for the offence, which would be punishable by a prison term of up to five years for individuals, or significant fines, public reprimands and the removal of directors for organisations.
The proposals, which would also apply to health services, are designed to fill a gap in the law left by section 127 of the Mental Health Act 1983 and section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. These created offences of ill-treatment or wilful neglect for people with mental disorders committed by staff or guardians, or people who lack capacity to take relevant decisions by care staff or attorneys or deputies appointed to take decisions for them.
The proposed offence is designed to protect service users who do not have a mental disorder and do not lack capacity to take relevant decisions. They would also address calls for providers to face prosecution for corporate neglect by making organisations liable if the way they are managed or organised causes a person to be ill-treated or neglected and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care.
Though the plans originate from proposals in a review into improving patient safety in the NHS by Don Berwick, they have been extended to cover adults’ and children’ social care services, though not informal care arrangements.
The government has estimated that there would be about 240 prosecutions a year once the offence has had time to bed in. The consultation closes on 31 March and to have your say email WN.firstname.lastname@example.org