Care & Human Rights

The purpose of clause 48, an amendment made in the House of Lords to the government’s Care Bill, was to make any provider of regulated social care subject to the Human Rights Act. On 21 January however, the committee of MPs responsible for looking more closely at the Care Bill voted to remove clause 48.

I fully sympathised with the principle of this clause, namely that everyone should receive good quality care regardless of whether they are receiving support from private or public providers. I believe though there are better ways to achieve this. The problem with clause 48 was that it would have marked a fundamental shift in the way that the Human Rights Act is applied.

The Human Rights Act has, up to now, always been about the relationship between the individual and the state, rather than between individuals and private organisations. It is therefore generally only public bodies that are expected to meet comply with the Human Rights Act. If clause 48 had become law it would have been the first time ever that the Act had been applied to private arrangements. Such an extension of the scope of the Human Rights Act would not have strengthened the protections already in place on the provision of care. We would have been making a major change without delivering any real improvement to people’s care.

Care providers are already subject to registration requirements, in line with standards set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. These requirements are enforced by the Care Quality Commission. The new role of Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care is also helping to transform the way that the Commission monitors and inspects care homes. The current regulatory regime makes providers accountable for the individuals they provide care for, and they must provide a decent standard of care.

The coalition government is determined to ensure that we prevent harm or neglect in social care, as that is clearly what matters most. This is why Lib Dem Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, has been championing the Better Care Promise. The Care Promise sets out basic universal standards of care, as well as encouraging honesty and transparency for care providers.

Even before the addition of clause 48 the Care Bill already made dramatic improvements to adult safeguarding, through its implementing of many of the recommendations of the Francis Report. The Bill also requires local authorities to set up enquiries wherever abuse is suspected, and it provides for Safeguarding Adults Boards to be set up too.