There have been many well-publicised failings in care homes across the country recently, where institutional abuse has been uncovered. Surveillance cameras have been hailed as a possible solution to this, to refocus on accountability and transparency and to restore some of the public trust that has been tarnished by these events.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) began to consider implementing CCTV last year, with supporters and detractors on both sides of the coin debating the considerable issues raised, including privacy and cost. Ridouts Solicitors recently held a joint symposium with the Relatives & Residents Association, to bring stakeholders from all areas of the health and social care sector together to discuss the way forward and whether there is a need for CCTV in our care residences, to prevent abuse.
Paul Ridout, Partner at Ridouts Solicitors, argues that installing surveillance in care settings is indeed permissible under the current legal framework: “There are obvious tensions, but they are not insurmountable. If there is real justification, a pressing need to interfere with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, that of the right to a private life, then that is workable, but safeguards must be applied to the use of camera equipment. Data protection, for instance, is a big compliance hurdle.”
“There are practical issues, but frankly, after a sorely needed industry-wide discussion is held, if we decide we need to implement this then we can overcome the practicalities. It would be expensive, there is a huge amount of footage that would be generated and access and storage must be carefully controlled, but it is possible and it may be the only workable solution for now.”
“The government must consider offering one-off grants, to cover the cost of camera installation and allow estates to be upgraded. We know, of course, that belts are being tightened. There are no bottomless resources available, but the safety of those with a dependency is paramount. The government should bridge that gap. As it is, we feel that the government is in danger of being seen as abdicating their responsibility in tackling this problem.”
“But CCTV is not the be all and end all. It is obviously the quickest and most visible way to show that the industry is actively responding to abuse cases and implementing preventative measures, but in the longer-term, the sector is crying out for better pay, better training and better leadership. Care workers must be paid the living wage, trained to become qualified and offered opportunities to develop and specialise, with a clear career progression framework. Essentially, care work should evolve to become and be recognised as a skilled practice, and the pride and prestige that this would instil would attract nothing but the most talented care staff.” In the interim, CCTV may be the only way to push ahead with eradicating abuse and restore trust in the sector, along with trust in the people who care for the most vulnerable of our society.”