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There are calls for the introduction of CCTV cameras in individual rooms within care homes – granting relatives remote access to check up on their loved ones.

In theory, it sounds great, especially if someone you care about lives in that environment. I reality, however,  it’s far from simple and potentially very problematic.

CCTV is a very intrusive tool, with issues over its legal compliance currently overseen by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). The most prominent piece of legislation that impacts daily on any CCTV system is the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

It’s easy finding an installer who will come along and install the cameras, but far harder for a business to be legislatively compliant. That’s not to say it’s hard to be legislatively compliant, but there’s often little understanding of what’s needed and – in many cases – individuals responsible for CCTV in their companies assume that if cameras show something of interest then that’s it, you have the perfect evidence. That just isn’t the case.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulate the care industry.

On their website, they cite the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and the fact that they (CQC) cannot authorise covert surveillance in individual homes. This is true, but the issue here is that the use of CCTV in a resident’s room is not covert if you can see the camera. There is no requirement for a care home to consider RIPA if and when they choose to monitor residents’ rooms. Their biggest concern is the rights of the individual; their mental capacity, privacy, security of information, access to camera views and so on. The care homes would have to be registered with the ICO –  which they already should be in order to be legally compliant in the collection of personal data – but their registration may need to be changed in order to install CCTV.

What about the rights of the care workers? Hypothetically the family of a care home resident may take a dislike to a certain member of staff for no professional reason at all, and proceed to use remote login to gain any snippet of information against him/her. Care work is very demanding both physically and mentally and some of the residents can be very challenging, so trying to make this a one-sided argument is very dangerous.

There would need to be some form of data sharing agreement in place that would prevent families with access to camera footage from using that footage unlawfully (posting on social media) for example. The care homes have a duty of care to staff as well as residents, and the staff do not lose their rights under the DPA 18 just because they work in care.

In a recent survey, most care home staff have welcomed the news that CCTV may become a mandatory requirement in care homes. One possibility for this is the pressure they are or have been under or the way they have been treated by family members. Let’s not make this an “us and them” debate – but in some ways that’s what it’s become. You can visit homepage for information.

On one hand, we have the residents who can do no wrong and their families who also only want the best for their relatives and on the other, we have the care staff who don’t care and are all complicit in abuse and neglect. This is so far from the truth. Most care homes and care staff provide wonderful care but there will always be bad apples. Residents can provide very challenging behaviour indeed and we certainly can’t say they are beyond reproach. Families also share some of the criticism, on occasion not considering the wellbeing of staff as of equal importance as their loved ones.

The care sector is generally poorly paid, staff poorly trained and work under very arduous conditions often understaffed. Addressing these root causes would make a difference and while CCTV adds a comfort blanket in some cases it’s not a one size fits all solution. The real losers will be residents, as room charges will increase to cover the cost of the new technology. 

It will be interesting to monitor how future shifts in legislation will affect care homes and both their residents and staff alike.