New Criminal Penalties for Carers

Professional carers and health organisations face new criminal penalties under offences brought in by the recent Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (CJCA).

What are the new criminal penalties for carers?

If a care worker mis-treats or deliberately neglects a person they care for in the course of their work they could face up to 5 years imprisonment, if convicted.

The offence doesn’t cover people who act as carers voluntarily or who just receive expenses.

Somone who supervises or has management responsibilities for care workers who commit the criminal acts of mistreatment or wilful neglect may also be caught by the new offence under section 20 of the CJCA.

Care companies and health organisations

There is also a second offence aimed at catching organisations whose activities are carried out in such a way that if a gross breach of a duty of care owed by that care provider occurs, which in turn enables the ill-treatment or wilful neglect to take place, the organisation can be charged with an offence. This offence can only be committed by a company or an unincorporated organisation. It could include however, not only care agencies but NHS trusts and GP surgeries, for example, although local authorities are exempt from prosecution under the new laws.

Why have s20 and s21 offences been introduced?

Following the Stafford Hospital and Winterbourne View scandals in the late 2000s, it was recognised that the protections for vulnerable people receiving health or social care were not nearly strong enough. Parliament has tried to close that gap in protection by creating these new criminal offences.

Will the new criminal penalties for carers stop abuse?

The new offences won’t necessarily prevent abuse by individuals because that form of abuse is often difficult to prove. The new criminal penalties are more likely to have a big impact on companies and organisations involved in health and social care because the focus of attention will be on how the organisation conducts itself as a whole. The organisations affected will have to demonstrate they had effective procedures and policies to monitor and train the individuals it employs at the time the alleged abuse took place, to avoid prosecution and heavy fines.

The legislation has specifically made clear that an organisation can face prosecution under s21 even if there hasn’t been a conviction of an individual under s20 of the Act.

Organisations will need to make sure they can show through their records and policies that they have done everything reasonably possible to avoid neglect and mistreatment of vulnerable people in their care.

Share your views on the new legislation and how it will affect social care and health professionals.

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