The Health Minister Norman Lamb has announced this week that plans are being drawn up to explore the strengthening of ‘corporate accountability’ laws for care home owners and directors. The proposed criminal law reforms would aim to ensure that there would be effective measures in place to hold directors of companies that own care homes criminally responsible should abuse or poor quality care be provided at their care homes.
The proposed strengthening follows widespread criticism of various authorities, including the Care Quality Commission, following an undercover television programme at Winterbourne View by the BBC’s Panorama programme.
Following the broadcast of the programme, criminal investigations were started into the staff members involved, which resulted in six members of staff being jailed for their part in what the a judge labelled as a ‘scandalous culture of cruelty’. However, the directors of Castlebeck, owners of the 26-bed unit, that received, on average £3,500 a week for each resident, were not criminally sanctioned.
The Health Minister Norman Lamb said his department was preparing new plans to strengthen corporate accountability of similar care homes. This includes care homes for the elderly and those with mental health and learning disability needs.
“When you look at Winterbourne View the people who committed the abuse and the assaults were convicted but what about the people who were making the money from that company and the board who were representing that company?” he said.
“We need to have a situation where people who run the care homes in the public sector or private sector know that they are accountable for the services that the provide and that there are consequences if they don’t.
“So next spring we will announce proposals to address the gap in the law on effective corporate accountability.”
The proposals have already received support from both the public and campaign groups. It is not known at this early stage how far the proposals will go, and whether the courts would be able to effectively pierce the sometimes complex corporate ownership and management structures associated with some care home operators.