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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 07:19 GMT
Legal fight over care home rights
By Branwen Jeffreys
BBC News, health correspondent

Care home
Campaigners want to prevent couples in care being split up
The court of appeal is being asked to decide if people in privately-run care homes should have stronger protection for their human rights.

Campaigners say the law needs to be changed to prevent elderly couples being separated in care, or homes closed without the consent of vulnerable residents.

The Human Rights Act is applied to care homes run by local authorities, but not to homes in the private or voluntary sector. That is despite the fact that around three hundred thousand people in private homes have their care paid for out of taxpayers' money.

Charities argue this means the homes are carrying out a "public function" in looking after these people so should also be covered by the Act.

There is no need to also make us comply with the Human Rights Act
National Care Association chief executive Sheila Scott

Andrew Harrop, of Age Concern, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that currently private care homes were able to take action that might have a detrimental effect on residents.

He said: "Private care homes at the moment can evict residents with no notice and they can decide to close as a business without taking due consideration of the needs of the residents, for whom that institution is their home - and it's often their last home - at a time when they need the most support."

Kate Jopling from Help the Aged said "Elderly people are the majority of those in residential care and they can be vulnerable to abuse. They should have their fundamental rights protected."

But the National Care Association, which represents 2,000 home owners, argues any change would simply add red tape.

Chief executive Sheila Scott said "We are already very strictly regulated and face independent inspection. There is no need to also make us comply with the Human Rights Act".

'Same high standard'

The same principle about publicly-funded, privately-provided care is in two cases which the Court of Appeal will consider simultaneously.

In one Havering Borough Council wants to transfer two of its residential homes into private management. In the other, a private home wants to move an 83-year-old woman with Alzheimer's.

The government will also be represented in court.

A spokesman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs said "Where a local authority is responsible for a person's care, the government believes that person should benefit from the same high standard of human rights protection regardless of whether the care is supplied in a local authority or private care home."

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28 Apr 06 |  Health

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