25 July 2018: We in the Relatives & Residents Association (the R&RA) completely understand why so many people call for CCTV, like Dominic Grieve, it is a normal gut reaction to stories of terrible abuse. But making CCTV mandatory in communal areas will not stop the abuse or neglect that predominantly happens in a resident’s room or private area. Our daily contact with relatives worried about poor care has convinced us that the use of secret cameras by providers is certainly not the answer. We think it’s inappropriate as a simplistic substitute for proper care and supervision.
Cameras are no substitute for individual care and more rigorous and more frequent inspections and better enforcement.
We have been involved in the making of two Panorama programmes about the unforgivable abuse of residents revealed by their relatives’ undercover filming. But this happened when they got no response or action from the provider, the regulator or the local authority (and sometimes all three) when abuse and neglect was suspected. Cameras are no substitute for individual care and more rigorous and more frequent inspections and better enforcement.
Rather than arguing for cameras, we should be campaigning for mandatory training for care workers.
It is not good enough that there were only four prosecutions and three urgent cancellations by CQC in 2016-2017. This affected fewer than .01% of homes, when CQC’s own figures suggest that between 20% and 30% of homes regularly breach important required standards and often fail to improve. The powers exist to take urgent enforcement action to close a home or make improvements, which need to be used far more effectively.
The regulator should once again become open to receiving and acting promptly on complaints. It should stop deflecting them back to the source of the complaint.
It is also worth asking why care homes are inspected less frequently than children’s homes? Many thousands of residents have no kith or kin and many others have families and friends too far away or too disabled or disconnected to be in touch. This could amount to 30,000-40,000 older people in care homes without any outside support. We cannot rely on undercover surveillance by those with the energy and knowledge to install it. It is no substitute for good quality control by providers
What about the effects of ‘undercover’ scrutiny on the poorly paid and undervalued workforce? Care workers already feel disaffected and vulnerable and turnover is higher in this sector than in any other. Rather than arguing for cameras, we should be campaigning for mandatory training for care workers. This will improve their pay and status as would improved staffing ratios and more rigorous standards. The government talks about ratios for nurses but avoids making similar statements about care workers.
If CCTV is to be used, except in dire circumstances, it should be with the knowledge and consent of all parties: managers, staff and residents. It could then be used positively to sample care practice and for training, as well as to give praise and encouragement for good care openly and fairly.