Elderly At Risk As Carer Blacklist Declared Unlawful Under Human Rights

The state-run blacklist designed to protect vulnerable elderly people from abuse was in chaos following a human rights judgement. A decision by a High Court judge threw into question the blacklist that is meant to protect two million old people from violence, theft or mistreatment in their own homes or in care homes.

Mr Justice Stanley Burnton found in favour of four nurses who said that their human rights had been broken when their names were included on the register.

The judge said that care workers should get a fair tribunal hearing before they are banned from working with elderly people under the Protection of Vulnerable Adults scheme.

His ruling is a deep embarrassment for ministers who ran into a major scandal earlier this year over the failures of blacklists meant to protect school pupils from paedophiles.

Former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly was forced to admit in January that at least 88 sex offenders have been allowed to work in schools since 1997 and that 210 people supposedly blacklisted by the Department for Education have been allowed to work with children.

Officials working for Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt – who is in charge of the Protection of Vulnerable Adults List – said the Department would appeal against yesterday’s ruling.

But pressure groups and charities for the elderly protested that the smooth working of the list is a vital protection for old people.

Jonathan Ellis of Help the Aged said: ‘We are in urgent need now of clarification over what can and cannot be done with this list.

‘The list is absolutely vital for protecting older people against abuse. It is guarding the most vulnerable people in society and it must be made to work.’

The Protection of Vulnerable Adults List has operated for the past two years. It contains the names of those among the two million care workers in the country who are considered to pose a risk to those they are meant to look after.

It is supposed to protect around a million mainly elderly people who either live in care homes or get home help from visiting helpers in their own homes.

But Mr Justice Stanley Burnton said the scheme ‘did not ensure due respect for the interests of care workers’ and failed to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, the charter enforced in British law by Labour’s Human Rights Act.

The challenge to the blacklist was brought by four nurses: June Wright, Khemraj Jummun, Barbara Gambier and Mary Quinn. Their claims were backed by their union, the Royal College of Nursing.

The nurses said it was wrong to ban them from working with vulnerable adults when their names were included on the ‘provisional’ section of the list. No appeal is available against provisional listing.

Care workers only have a right of appeal against blacklisting to the Care Standards Tribunal when the Health Secretary confirms their banned status.

Miss Wright has now had her name confirmed on the list and faces a 10 year ban from working with vulnerable adults. The other three nurses’ names were removed from the list after they had been included provisionally and banned from working for nine months.

Martin Spencer QC who appeared for the four nurses said many care workers had suffered injustice after being put on the list.

‘A person can be put on the list provisionally, causing immense damage to their reputation, their employment and their families,’ he said. ‘Effectively, they have no remedy but to make representations to the Health Secretary.’

The judge ruled that the list scheme set up under the 2000 Care Standards Act is incompatible with human rights law – a decision that means ministers must rewrite the law.

Mr Ellis of Help the Aged said: ‘The Government needs to make the list work quickly.’

Stephen Burke, who runs the Counsel and Care charity which helps old people and their carers, said: ‘This decision threatens to undermine measures which protect elderly people. We hope the Government will review the legislation urgently.’

Currently around 2,000 people are provisionally included on the Protection of Vulnerable Adults list. Another 500 have confirmed listings.