Call for tougher laws on care homes
Published on 16 January 2013 11:30 AM
Tougher laws are needed to make sure companies that own care homes where abuse is carried out are held criminally accountable, a former minister has said.
Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow said care providers should face fines and criminal sanctions for abuse and neglect on their premises in light of the Winterbourne View scandal.
Six people were jailed last year for their role in abuse at the private hospital near Bristol, which closed after the BBC's Panorama programme uncovered evidence of widespread mistreatment in 2011, but Mr Burstow said there had been 'no corporate accountability' and did not want to see a repeat of the scandal.
The MP for Sutton and Cheam, who was care services minister until leaving the Government in September, is outlining proposed legislation in the Commons which he said would help ensure justice is done for any future victims of abuse and their families.
He said: 'It is not good enough for the thugs who carry out this kind of abuse to receive a criminal conviction, when the companies in charge have no criminal corporate accountability whatsoever.
'It is about time those who take the fees, and employ and manage the staff in care homes are held to account for abuse and neglect that takes place on their watch.'
Holding care companies to account
Mr Burstow's proposals include amending existing legislation to make a corporate body guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are run by its board or senior management is neglectful, or is a substantial element in the existence and/or possibility of abuse or neglect.
Offences should be punishable by unlimited fines, remedial orders and publicity orders, while those with information about suspected abuse or neglect must supply details to adult safeguarding boards if requested to do so.
Norman Lamb, who succeeded Mr Burstow as care minister in September, has already suggested that the Government is prepared to look at criminal sanctions as an option.
He has said the firm which owned Winterbourne View should pay towards the cost of the inquiries into the scandal.
'We must stop placing older people in situations that make them vulnerable'
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK commented, 'Abuse is never acceptable and anyone who is involved in the provision of care and the government itself must be prepared to be held accountable for the quality of care they offer.
'If we are to prevent abuse in health and care settings, which is a must, we have to stop placing older people in situations that make them vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
'Older people in care settings have very few rights - they often feel reluctant to complain and may have no one to turn to and no easy access to information about how or where to complain, making them even more defenceless.
'While underfunded care or health services are provided in settings where staff have too little time to treat residents or patients as people, with inadequate monitoring by the NHS or social services, people become vulnerable to abuse.'
Copyright Press Association 2013