By Chloe Stothart
Age UK has slammed the government for opposing the extension of liability under the Human Rights Act 1998 to all regulated care providers in England.
Care minister Norman Lamb has tabled an amendment to take out clause 48 of the Care Bill, which would make all Care Quality Commission-registered providers open to challenge under the Human Rights Act.
The clause was inserted into the bill in the House of Lords to address a lack of protection for self-funding care home residents and those using non-residential services generally. Currently, only public bodies and care homes, in respect of placements arranged by councils or the NHS, are bound by the Human Rights Act.
Self-funders lack this protection, while council-funded home care users can challenge the authority that commissioned their care but not their provider, under human rights legislation.
Lamb’s amendment will be debated by a committee of MPs scrutinising the bill. It is likely to be passed because of the coalition majority on the committee.
Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said she was “disappointed and surprised” that the government wanted to retain the difference in legal provisions between self-payers and state funded care recipients.
“Under the current system, two older people in the same care home can receive very different levels of protection under the Human Rights Act based solely on how their care has been arranged and paid for,” she said. “This is not only fundamentally wrong, it means that if an older person who pays for their care is abused or suffers from neglect and poor care they have less legal redress than someone in the same unfortunate position whose care is funded by the state.” Age UK has set up an online petition calling on the government not to scrap clause 48.
A spokesperson for the charity said clause 48 could have helped self-funding care home residents use the Human Rights Act to mount a challenge if they were evicted from the home. Domiciliary care users could also use the Act to object to their provider using their home for training, she added.
A Department of Health spokesperson said clause 48 was unnecessary because the current system already aimed to make providers accountable to people receiving care. People arranging their own care could also seek redress through their contract with their care provider or through the law if an offence were committed, she added.
She said: “What people and their loved ones want and need is reassurance that they will be treated with compassion and kindness when using care services. To achieve this we need to concentrate on preventing harm, abuse and neglect from happening in the first place.
“Extending the Human Rights Act in this way would not make people or providers treat those they care for with any more dignity and respect than they should. People with private care will still have rights and protections under current law.”