Union calls for private care homes to be subject to FOI laws

Unison Scotland urges change in legislation after ‘lethal failures over Covid’

Credit: Arek Socha from Pixabay

Private care homes should be covered by freedom of information legislation following “lethal failures over Covid”, according to Scotland’s biggest public service trade union.

Unison Scotland called for the law change at the Freedom of Information 2020 event held yesterday by PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood.

The union believes that FOI rights should “follow the money” and that all bodies, whether public, private or voluntary sector, should be open to the same level of scrutiny if they are providing publicly funded services.

Covid-19 infections in private care homes are the highest of all care home sectors, with Public Health Scotland analysis putting the level of outbreaks in private care homes at 45.2% of all care homes between March and May. The combined total for NHS and local authority care homes was 27.9%.

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Stephen Low from Unison Scotland said: “Following their lethal failures over COVID, private care homes need to be brought under freedom of Information law. This is an absolute necessity to help tackle unsafe staffing practices and the culture of concealment in the care home business.”

“The pandemic has shown up that Scotland’s care home system is broken. The most dangerous places to be in the country are privately run care homes. The sector has been shown to be broken, the failure of private care homes to operate in a way that can keep people – including their staff – safe has been horrifying. Were these businesses covered by freedom of information, some of their more dangerous staffing practices such as lack of sick pay policies would have been open to scrutiny and challenge. That would have been better than having to rush through emergency legislation after hundreds of people had already died.”

He added: “Private care homes run on public money. It is a disgrace that those in care homes and their families can be denied details about how care is provided that would be available to those in NHS or council homes because of ‘commercial confidentiality’. The Scottish Government needs to act on this – and swiftly. One of their first decisions during the pandemic was to restrict freedom of information rights. They have since, rightly changed their mind on that. Bringing the lethally inadequate private care homes under FOI is how they should apologise.”


Sam Trendall

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