Hudgell Solicitors has welcomed recognition from the Government of the role cameras have played in exposing poor and neglectful treatment of the elderly and vulnerable in care homes.
It came in an official response from The Department of Health to a petition calling for CCTV in all UK care homes.
The Government said it ‘does not object to the use of CCTV cameras in care homes on a case by case basis.’
It added that it ‘recognises that cases of abuse and neglect have been exposed as the result of hidden cameras’, acknowledging ‘there are occasions when it may be appropriate for their use to be considered.”
Although the Government stressed ‘the use of CCTV and other forms of covert surveillance should not be routine’, Lauren Dale, of Hudgell Solicitors, believes its statement poses a question as to whether homes looking after the elderly and vulnerable should now be required to offer the option of extra surveillance to every resident.
Ms Dale said: “What we have here is an admission from the Government that abuse and neglect is happening too often in care and residential homes, but no suggestion of how that escalating problem can now be tackled and prevented going forward.
“The Government has admitted that CCTV cameras have played a vital role in catching the perpetrators of abuse and neglect, and that CCTV use is something it does not object to if families are happy for filming to take place.
“It is certainly positive to hear that the Government does not object to CCTV being used and that it feels it should be considered on a ‘case by case’ basis. The reality is though, without changing legal requirements on homes, this will never be the case.
“The only way to make a difference is to make it a legal requirement for care and residential homes to offer CCTV as an additional option in private rooms for families. We always accepted there would be concerns over privacy with blanket CCTV use, but if families are happy and want it, surely it should be provided?
“Surely it could become law for CCTV facilities to be available in a minimum number of rooms at each care home. This is what needs looking at next.”
The Government response came after Hudgell Solicitors gave its backing to the petition, set up by Rochdale resident Lisa Smith, who took her 86-year-old father Joshua out of care after four years, describing it as a ‘living nightmare’
Launching our Love Our Vulnerable and Elderly (Love) campaign, we called for the elderly and vulnerable to be loved, respected, protected and treated with dignity at all times in care.
Given we were also representing a number of families who had turned to secret filming and had caught abusive and neglectful care on camera, we also supported the call for CCTV to be compulsory in care homes, citing better protection for not only the residents themselves, but also care home operators and staff against malicious allegations.
The campaign attracted national media coverage, in particular when the family of an 84-year-old woman who was cruelly taunted and mimicked by her carers, released shocking images of the ‘horrific pressure sores’ she suffered whilst in same home, showing she was also subjected to agonising physical neglect.
Pressure sores on Freda Jobson’s lower back and heel were described as ‘some of the worst seen’ by medical negligence specialist Lauren Dale, who is currently representing the family in pursuing a civil claim over her ‘appalling’ care.
Now, the Government has stated it is not against the use of CCTV, saying it must be done ‘in consultation with and with the permission of those residents and their families.’
The Government response said: “The Government does not object to the use of CCTV cameras in care homes on a case by case basis. Care home owners should consult with and seek the consent of residents and their families on their use.
“Care providers and members of the public, including care service users and their families, are free to decide whether or not to employ CCTV or covert monitoring. However, they should be aware of requirements, including legal protections, around ensuring the privacy and dignity of those who are being filmed or observed.
“The abuse or neglect of vulnerable people is deplorable. The Government has strengthened the powers of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to prosecute providers for unacceptable care, including abuse.
“The Government recognises that cases of abuse and neglect have been exposed as the result of hidden cameras. We acknowledge that there are occasions when it may be appropriate for their use to be considered.
“Closed circuit television (CCTV) should not be regarded as a substitute for proper recruitment procedures, training, management and support of care staff, or for ensuring that numbers of staff on duty are sufficient to meet the needs of users of services.
“It is a legal requirement that care providers must ensure the safety, welfare, privacy and dignity of service users at all times. The Government considers that the widespread introduction of CCTV into care homes would raise important concerns about residents’ privacy, as well as practicality.
“The use of CCTV and other forms of covert surveillance should not be routine, but should be considered on a case by case basis. The Government does not object to the use of CCTV in individual care homes or by the families of residents, provided it is done in consultation with and with the permission of those residents and their families.”
The Government added that with care provision ‘often personal, even intimate in nature’, filming ‘would represent a major intrusion into their privacy’ adding that ‘For the great majority, whose care is good, such an intrusion could not be justified.’
Ms Dale added: “The campaign has been a success as it has placed the worrying matter of neglectful and abusive care of our elderly and vulnerable under the national spotlight and onto the desks of those at the Department of Health.
“The response we have had is not enough though, it simply accepts there is a problem but offers no solution.
“We will continue to support families to bring about better care for their loved ones, which requires stronger demands on care operators, improved protection, and greater accountability across the board.
“This campaign will not end because a petition period has closed. It has only just started. A campaign like this can only end when a truly positive difference to the care of our vulnerable and elderly has been secured.”
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