Health and Social Care Bill: human rights amendment fails

A proposal to bring independent care providers under the Human Rights Act by amending a current bill was withdrawn today due to lack of support.

Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins had proposed the amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, which would make all health and social care providers regulated by the new Care Quality Commission liable under the Human Rights Act.

Lack of support

Although it gained support today from Liberal Democrat members of the committee considering the Bill, Hopkins withdrew it due to a lack of Conservative and Labour support.

But the amendment, drawn up by a coalition including the British Institute of Human Rights, Age Concern and Help the Aged, was designed more to draw out the government’s view on closing the loophole, rather than change the Bill immediately.

Courts’ interpretation

While ministers have long voiced opposition to the courts’ interpretation of the Human Rights Act – that it only applies to public sector providers – they are yet to specify how they will tackle the problem.

In a parliamentary briefing, the coalition of human rights groups and older people’s charities, which also includes Liberty and Justice, said there had been plenty of instances of care home residents having their human rights breached. These included continent older people being forced to wear incontinence pads because staff did not have time to take them to the toilet and routine overmedication to keep residents docile.

Government suggestion

Sonya Sceats, policy and research officer at the BIHR, said so far the government had suggested providers would be assessed on their human rights as part of the regulatory system brought in under the Health and Social Care Bill. However, she added, this would not give service users any redress should they have their human rights breached.

She said: “We would like the government to respond to this amendment by offering a more susbtantial reform than they have so far suggested they would introduce.”

In June 2007, the House of Lords followed lower courts in ruling that independent sector homes were not bound by the Human Rights Act, in the case of a publicly-funded resident, who had been threatened with eviction from her home after falling out with the management.

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More information

Human Rights Act 1998

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