Government watchdog unveils Care Home Hidden Camera Plan
Starting with the scandal at Bristol’s Winterbourne View Hospital in 2011, there has been a string of shocking cases where concerned family members have used hidden cameras to uncover abuse and neglect in care homes across the UK. Now it seems the fallout from these reports has spurned the government care regulator into action. The BBC has reported how Andrea Sutcliffe, the new head of the Care Quality Commission, unveiled proposals on Tuesday to incorporate such covert recording methods into the CQC’s official policy. The plan has raised eyebrows in some quarters, but can be seen as vindication for the families who turned to such methods as a last resort.
The suggestions form part of a document released in advance of a public consultation next year detailing wide ranging reforms for how the CQC inspects care homes for the elderly and vulnerable adults. Officials were quick to reassure the public that it would only be in specific cases where there was concern over care, and with the full consent of the resident’s family. “There’s no loss of dignity there”, stated Care Minister Norman Lamb on ITV news, “it’s all by agreement, and it might expose something dreadful that’s happening that otherwise wouldn’t come to light”. Indeed, the previous unofficial investigations uncovered horrific evidence of physical and mental abuse, as well as many instances of neglect by staff. Other ideas outlined in the document include the use of “mystery shopper” style inspectors, who would pose as family members enquiring about care for their loved ones. It also suggests publishing ratings for care homes, letting the public compare them in a similar way to school OFSTED reports.
Reaction to the report was generally positive, but some have suggested the failings in the care sector have deeper causes that will need to be addressed. As recently as last week, the BBC discussed an EHRC report that was highly critical of how local governments commissioned care. It suggested the extensive use of zero-hours contracts and low pay by private companies in the sector was “leading to high turnover of staff and putting older people’s human rights at risk.” It essentially questioned whether those who are tasked with caring for our loved ones should be struggling to make a living wage.
Whilst the new proposals will not help resolve these underlying questions, they provide the regulators with powerful new tools to hold abusers to account. They will also surely be welcomed by concerned families across the country who would otherwise have undertaken hidden camera investigations by themselves.