Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill: Health: Concern over care of elderly

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THE CARE of elderly and mentally-ill people is threatened by a relaxation of the regulations governing which residential homes they can be placed in, it was claimed last night.

Social services directors expressed 'grave concern' over government proposals to lift restrictions which ban local authorities from using homes run by proprietors previously convicted of an offence under the Registered Homes Act 1984.

At present local authorities cannot place people in such homes, regardless of the type of offence.

But in the future, local authorities will be allowed to take the 'nature' of the conviction into account. A spokesman for the Department of Health said last night that many of the offences were 'trivial' - such as failing to display a notice in a correct way - and prevented placements in homes which the authority and the prospective resident would find acceptable.

A proprietor's registration could still be cancelled at any time, he added.

However, John Ransford, honorary secretary of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said that the proposal was causing concern among members.

'This does present us with something of a problem. We would want to see the specific convictions that would be disallowed before we came to any decision. Over the past year we have expressed concern about some of the people who are running these homes.

'It may be that some people with a conviction (under the Act) should not be put in charge of vulnerable people.'

Residential care homes or nursing homes in Scotland and Northern Ireland would be able to accept residents placed there by local authorities in England and Wales - known as cross-border placements - under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill.

The proposal has been warmly welcomed by social services directors and the Independent Healthcare Association.