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Big Brother Care Homes

Care homes are being warned as plans are being considered by the government to place undercover pensioners in care homes in an attempt to tackle elderly abuse and neglect. The plan would see annual inspections become a thing of the past but more controversially, the insertion of hidden cameras is also being considered.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care for England, has outlined her plans in a document ahead of a public consultation next year in which she states the Care Quality Commission would provide pensioners to spy in care homes and other institutions that care for the elderly. She qualified this however by stating that privacy issues would have to be considered before the plan was fully implemented.

As part of the overhaul Sutcliffe has also spoken of only specialists being allowed to inspect care homes with the aid of the ‘’Mum test,’’ that is if standards are not good enough for your mother then it is not good enough for anyone. In addition, the changes would see more regular use of sanctions such as the closing down of poor care homes.

A spokesman for Age UK has commented that whilst improving care is a top priority, this needs to be measured against an elderly person’s right to dignity and respect in their home. The director of carehome.co.uk has also commented that surveillance would impact on the residents and could affect the motivation of the care home staff. He stated ‘we need to train, support and inspire the next generation of carers; not create a big brother culture where people are afraid to do this vital job.’

The care minister Norman Lamb however insisted there would be no loss of dignity and that the changes were necessary in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal, where care staff were filmed assaulting patients by an undercover BBC team; “in Winterbourne View the Panorama cameras exposed some really dreadful things and it brought to light something that had to end.”

Whilst this is a step in the right direction and one that is indicative that the government is taking elderly abuse more seriously in light of the recent scandals, there is also the opinion that if the government were to invest more in training and payment of staff and by providing adequate and accessible facilities, the elderly could be just as protected without the need to turn homes into ‘Big Brother Houses.’ Further information will follow next year once the public consultation and responses have been published.

If you have experienced abuse in a care home or have an elderly relative that has, please contact Bolt Burdon Kemp’s specialist abuse team for free and confidential advice.

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