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Is CCTV in care homes the answer to elder abuse?

Everyone agrees that elderly people in our society should be protected from harm and abuse and many advocate the introduction of CCTV to achieve this. Will CCTV in care homes help to prevent care home injuries and neglect? Jayne Connery, Director at Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, a leading campaigner in the field of elder abuse is a strong advocate for the introduction of CCTV said:

“Over the last three decades, the incidences of poor care and abuses have become more frequent. Indeed, recently a report confirmed that after Freedom of Information requests from many UK police forces, results confirmed that violent crimes against elderly people had increased by 260% over the last ten years.

Accepting that circa 20% of all abuses occur in Care Homes, means that the mandatory use of CCTV safety and monitoring systems should be beyond discussion. We have had the commitments for over thirty years of better training, improved recruitment and selection, more focussed regulation and inspection and a number of whistleblowing initiatives. Whilst some of those initiatives have indeed been delivered, they have made little or no difference to the incidences of poor care.”

So what are the considerations in relation to the introduction of CCTV in care homes?

Families have secretly filmed inside care homes in order to investigate suspicions about abuse and neglect. This type of covert monitoring has recorded incidences of poor treatment, abuse and neglect that may never have been exposed save for the secret filming. Should open as opposed to covert CCTV be introduced in all care homes and what are the considerations?

What are the advantages of CCTV ?

  • CCTV can monitor the treatment of vulnerable elderly residents, many of whom will lack capacity and are unable to report neglect or bad treatment. Many falls and injuries in care homes are unwitnessed and therefore CCTV can provide a record of exactly how injuries are sustained.
  • CCTV footage can be used in evidence for criminal prosecutions and for training purposes.
  • CCTV can also protect the safety of caregivers if they are the victim of an assault. If unfounded and unfair allegations are made against the caregivers, CCTV can be an important tool in defending such allegations.
  • CCTV can help to keep property, possessions and residents safe from theft and burglary.

What are the disadvantages of CCTV ?

The most obvious argument against the introduction of CCTV is the protection of privacy. Article 8 of The Human Rights Act 1998 provides that ‘everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.’ This applies to everyone including elderly care home residents, caregivers and visitors.

However, the right to a private life can only be restricted in order to protect the rights and freedoms of other people. The question is whether it is justifiable to interfere in an individual right to privacy to protect the elderly residents of a care home from abuse? Caregivers may feel that they are not trusted and are being spied upon by CCTV. Residents themselves may not wish to live their lives under the constant monitoring of CCTV. In addition, family members may object to being filmed whilst sharing family time with their loved ones.

No one is advocating the introduction of CCTV into all areas of care homes including bathrooms and private areas but rather, the consensus is that open CCTV in communal areas might be appropriate. Communal CCTV however would not catch abusive behaviour or ill treatment in private areas therefore the deterrent effect of CCTV is limited. Due to the fine balance between protecting individuals’ rights to privacy and protection from harm the introduction of CCTV in a care home can be controversial and raise objections. Therefore, any attempt to introduce CCTV must be done on a consensual basis and in a way that protects all individuals’ privacy.

The CQC consider that if surveillance is used to keep people safe or monitor their wellbeing it forms part of their care and therefore must comply with The Health and Safety Social Act. Recordings held from CCTV are also classed as information, which is regulated by The Information Commissioners Office (ICO). GDPR needs to be considered before introducing surveillance.

Whether CCTV is appropriate can only be considered on a case by case basis providing consultation with all residents, families, staff, trade unions and visitors. It is necessary to consider and explain why CCTV is being introduced and whether there is a better way to achieve the stated purposes. Consideration must be given to lessening the impact of people’s privacy and provide proper training and management of the information collected.

CCTV is not the panacea to the problems of abuse, neglect and ill treatment in care homes which can only be managed with wider regulation, improved leadership and training together with recruitment and improvement in the working conditions of all care workers. However, if properly introduced, CCTV may be a valuable tool in safeguarding elderly residents in care homes.

Irvings law have successfully represented many victims of care home injuries and elder abuse to take action on their behalf. If you or your loved one have been injured in a care home and are seeking advice and representation call us on 0800 954 0243 for a no obligation chat .

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