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16th October 2013

Ready for your close up?

I heard on the radio this morning that the CQC’s new Chief is considering whether secret CCTV filming of care settings would increase early detection of poor practice. This followed the success in Panorama’s uncovering of abuse at Winterbourne View and in a number of recent cases where relatives have taken this step to spy on a relative’s care in the home. These range from cases of physical abuse of the vulnerable, to cases of theft by homecare workers or elderly and frail people being neglected through indifferent staff who did not carry out duties as directed.

My current workplace uses CCTV in supporting very challenging clients to have time out in their rooms with necessary safeguards. We also use CCTV to monitor clients with life threatening illnesses during the night, in order to give them peace and quiet to sleep without compromising the vigilance of care staff. The risk management around this is onerous but essential; close management of who can access the records, how they are stored and disposed of and the time and duration of recording to name but  some of the evidence we gather to support the practice. We feel strongly that this enhances peoples’ freedom and supports their privacy.

Before you consider whether covert filming would help you in your workplace, there are considerations around the rights of those who would be affected. As CQC’s Andrea Sutcliffe pointed out, the rights to privacy and dignity of the service user are paramount and this would strongly influence any decision by regulators to use covert monitoring in the future. As a care provider, you must demonstrate that you respect service user rights and freedoms at all times. You should seek consent to use recording equipment in their home and explain the reasons for doing so in a manner that they understand. If a care provider or even a service user’s family were to install CCTV without the individuals consent or knowledge, this would be a safeguarding issue.

With regard to monitoring staff, employers need to notify when CCTV is in use so that staff are aware they are being monitored. However, if an employer suspects wrongdoing and feels that covert filming is justified to detect it, then this type of targeted surveillance is justified.

The law is currently a little blurry in regard to CCTV and similar monitoring, but the Data Protection Act covers the lawful use of this and interested individuals should download the guidance at here:  CCTV Code of Practice

As with many management tools, there is a need to consider carefully before taking this option. The benefits in terms of monitoring staff behaviour are clear, but the positive outcomes for service users must be weighed against any potential risks to privacy.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Ginny Tyler

Learning Disabilities Specialist

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