Government U-turn on human rights vow to clients of private providers

The government has “seriously diluted” its commitment to ensuring that clients of independent care agencies are protected under the Human Rights Act 1998 it was claimed this week.

A parliamentary report points the finger at constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer who, it says, told MPs and peers that inclusion under the act would deter independent providers from entering the market.

They are currently exempt from the act as the courts have not defined them as “public authorities” under the terms of the legislation. Until now, the government has supported calls to include them.

The joint committee on human rights said it was “extremely disappointed” by Lord Falconer’s admission and called on the government to consider legislation to bring independent agencies under the act.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs recently withdrew from a test case involving a challenge by three care home residents against Havering Council’s decision to transfer their care to the private sector, which they claimed breached their human rights.

In July, the DCA appealed against a High Court ruling that private agencies were not liable under the act, and that the council would be responsible for safeguarding the residents’ rights.

Katie Ghose, director of the British Institute of Human Rights, said thousands of people were denied proper legal protection of their human rights because they were in private or voluntary sector care homes.

She added: “It’s extraordinary to hear [Lord Falconer] turning his back on legislation to sort out this mess, when his own staff have been working hard to prepare a public consultation on this issue.

“Older residents in particular cannot afford to wait years for the right case to get to court. They will be looking to the government to take action and for them legislation is the quickest and smartest solution.”

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 Maria Ahmed

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