Government tipped to increase human rights protections for home care users

Care Bill likely to be amended to extend scope of Human Rights Act to users of home care arranged by the state

The government is expected to amend the Care Bill to extend Human Rights Act protection to users of state-funded home care.

The move would close a gap in the law under which users of state-provided care or residential services arranged by the state in the independent sector can challenge their treatment under the Human Rights Act 1998, but users of state-arranged home care cannot.

The expected amendment comes with the Care Bill due to undergo its final stage in Parliament on 7 May, where the Houses of Lords and Commons will agree a final text of the legislation before it passes into law.

Crossbench peer Lord Low of Dalston has already tabled an amendment to extend Human Rights Act coverage to all care arranged or funded by the state.

A source close to the discussions said the government was likely to table an amendment that would not be identical to Lord Low’s but would address similar issues.

In March, care minister Norman Lamb said he “sympathised” with an amendment tabled by Labour’s shadow care minister Liz Kendall and Lib Dem former care minister Paul Burstow to extend Human Rights Act protection to all users of care commissioned by councils and the NHS.

The amendment was defeated with claiming that people in care commissioned by public bodies were already protected by the liability of councils and the NHS under the Human Rights Act.

But he said he would “consider whether legislative clarification might be justified in order to make the government’s position clear”.

The Lords had originally amended the bill to make all providers of regulated care services liable under the Human Rights Act, which would have extended protections to self-funding care users. However, a this was removed by the government in January, after the Care Bill transferred to the House of Commons. 

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said she was delighted about the expected amendment.

“When this amendment comes into force many more people will have the reassurance of knowing that if they complain about poor treatment they will have the protection of the Human Rights Act and the care provider cannot simply fob them off.

“However as it stands this will not protect people who pay for their own care unless they involve their local authority in arranging care.”

Separate provisions in the bill, to introduce a ‘cap’ on the costs people pay for their care out of pocket, are likely to increase the number of people having their care arranged by their council.

To be eligible for the cap, people would have to be assessed and have their needs regularly reviewed by their local authority. However, they would also be able to ask their council to arrange their care, for a fee, meaning they would have be able to obtain their care at local authority fee rates and, if the expected amendment is passed, obtain the protection of the Human Rights Act.

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One Response to Government tipped to increase human rights protections for home care users

  1. Nick Johnson April 28, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    As someone now on the edge of this debate, it is striking to observe the talk about care being the best it has ever been at Westminster, whilst at the operation of care, there is wholesale demolition of provision, increased staff insecurity and increased numbers of people receiving no help. Is it possible we can have a reality check here?