In a bid to raise the standard of care in residential homes across the country, a Labour government would hold the owners, management and directors of care homes responsible for how those people in their care are treated.
Mistreatment could result in custodial sentences for those responsible, according to Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary. Mr Burnham is reported to have pledged to introduce a new charge of “corporate neglect”, which could result in jail sentences or fines for the owners, managers and boards of private care homes. Many people outside the health and care industry might be surprised to learn that criminal charges in connection with the care of vulnerable people who live in private care homes currently only apply to care home staff, not senior managers or owners. Whereas in the state sector, criminal charges can be brought against whoever is involved in the mistreatment or poor standards. One of the major benefits of Mr Burnham’s proposed change would be to improve the success rate of tackling poor standards and abuse. Proving neglect or cruelty can be very difficult in the case of a single individual, but it will be easier to call the entire organisation to account for its poor standards of care. As the Panorama programme highlighted last year, while there is never an excuse for cruelty, neglect or abuse, greater investment in the sector is essential. Better, more frequent training, higher salaries to attract better quality staff and higher staffing levels would all help to combat the underlying reasons for low standards, neglect and mistreatment as highlighted in previous blogs. Last year we called for stricter consequences for failing care homes, which are still yet to be implemented. If a care home is failing it ought to be given a short notice period in which to improve and if it fails to do so, the home must be shut down. We welcome the shadow health secretary’s pledge to apply greater sanctions and hope this results in more immediate action to improve the culture and attitudes of all those working in the care industry.