Bid to limit reach of Human Rights Act

The government is seeking to limit any extension of the Human Rights Act 1998 beyond public bodies to independent sector care homes only, rather than other non-public providers of tax-funded services, it has emerged.

The House of Lords this month considered a test case involving a woman threatened with eviction from her private care home, where she has been placed by Birmingham Council.

The provider, Southern Cross, has since withdrawn the threat, but a judgement will be made on whether such a move would have breached her human rights.

The claim hinges on whether private care homes providing services to publicly-funded residents are performing a public function, and should therefore be liable under human rights legislation. In the past, lower courts have repeatedly interpreted the law to apply only to public bodies, despite the increasing outsourcing of public services, particularly social care.

However, though the government has historically backed extending the act to independent sector providers, in this case it has called on the Lords to apply any extension to publicly-funded care home residents alone.

Jean Gould, legal officer at Help the Aged, which intervened in the case, said it appeared the government was seeking to exclude independent providers of domiciliary care services as well, though its prime motivation seemed to be to exclude housing associations from liability under the act.

She said besides making judgement on the particular case, the Lords could outline a test for what constitutes a public function, which could be “wide or narrow”.

Related stories

Lords to rule on private care home eviction

Hint at legislation to close rights gap

See what The Inspector thinks

Further information

Ministry of Justice


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