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

The government must urgently ensure independent social care providers become subject to the Human Rights Act 1998 through fresh legislation, a committee of MPs and peers said today.

The joint committee of human rights said government efforts to persuade the courts to interpret the Act to include private and voluntary sector providers of public services had been unsuccessful.

It added that the increasing outsourcing of public services to the independent sector meant new legislation had to be drafted.

Social care has been at the heart of the debate in successive test cases in which the courts have ruled that only public providers are bound by the Act, which applies to “functions of a public nature”.

Most recently, the appeal court rejected four care home residents’ from Birmingham and north London’s claim that the decision to place them in independent sector provision was a breach of their human rights.

They have been given leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

The committee rejected leaving the matter to the courts, saying this was unlikely to lead to an “enduring and effective solution”.
Instead, it called for a new law, separate to the Human Rights Act, to clarify that the interpretation of “functions of a public nature” includes contracted-out services.

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