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By Debbie le Quesne

Guilty until proved innocent – how the law works with residential care

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The care industry is getting very twitchy over the new raft of regulatory demands and possible inspection outcomes that can now be deemed criminal offences.

High levels of corporate accountability that could end in the courts have racked up insurance policy bills and according to Caring Times editor Geoff Hodgson’s blog insurers seem to “rank care homes with paragliding and rodeo work.”

At odds with all of the UK justice system, the biggest problem is that provider are assumed guilty until they can prove their innocence.

Geoff point out, quite rightly, that we rarely hear much of lack of accountability of the public agencies involved in the investigation of safeguarding incidents.

Let me quote this incident he highlights in his blog: “In a letter published in the June issue of Caring Times, Paul Simic of the Lancashire Care Association recounts the sorry saga of Palatine Lodge in Burnley where a patient died in early 2012.

“The home had been cleared of any fault by the Coroner, the police, CQC and the local authority, but as a consequence of the safeguarding investigation, all the residents were moved and the proprietor of the home, its reputation in tatters, was compelled to sell the business at a substantial loss.

“In his letter Mr Simic asks: ‘How can it be that all this time on – with what happened to the other residents, to the proprietor, to the manager, to the staff, to any family and friends of Mrs A who also may have had to travel this unhappy road to the Coroner’s verdict – that no fault is found in a provider with an established good name, those who made such consequential judgments en route are subject to no independent review or scrutiny or consequence?

‘Where is the justice or fairness in this instance? Without the right checks and balances in place, the SME provider sector is too easily a secondary level victim.’”

I know too of another case where a male career was accused anonymously of sexual assault with a client in a nursing home. A massive, often hostile, police inquiry followed. The carer was suspended for months, his domestic life fell apart, the home’s manager was devastated and the owners distraught. Outcome: No case to answer – the letter believed to be sent by a former disgruntled employee.

Issues of a legal nature in safeguarding sometimes have catastrophic consequences, which, as these cases show, are not always fair.

Geoff quotes 
“All are punished,” – the Duke in Romeo and Juliet after the lovers’ joint demise’ and notes well it’s not so in the safeguarding scenario. I have a quote to add here too: “The law is an ass” – Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist).

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