HSE application over family using CCTV to monitor care of mother ‘unjustified’
High court judge said application was ‘improperly brought’ and he would award costs to the family at the highest level
The judge said he could not understand how there could be objection to the carers work being recorded “if it was of a high standard, as it should be”.
The president of the High Court has dismissed concerns by the HSE that a family’s installation of CCTV cameras in their elderly mother’s home with a view to ensuring appropriate care of her amounts to abuse.
The HSE applied for a declaration under the Enduring Powers of Attorney Act that cameras are not an appropriate personal care decision and also sought orders for destruction of footage taken prior to its application.
The HSE’s safeguarding team for vulnerable adults considered installation last month of cameras in the shower, living room and bedroom breached the woman’s constitutional rights to bodily integrity, privacy and dignity as her personal intimate care was being recorded and thus constituted abuse.
The woman, aged in her eighties, has dementia and other health issues and is non verbal.
She is subject of a HSE home care package under which she gets a number of hours of care daily from the HSE via agency workers. Her family pay for additional hours of daily private care.
Her adult children, who visit her daily, said the CCTV was to ensure, if their mother suffered a fall or any injury as a result of personal care by non-family members, they would know how that occurred.
They said they would not look at the CCTV footage unless there was any such injury.
The family have not made any allegations against those involved in their mother’s care, the court heard.
The HSE brought the application after a daughter of the woman, who holds an enduring power of attorney concerning her mother, had notified the HSE via email of the cameras and the intent behind those.
In his decision, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said the woman is fortunate to live at home where she gets excellent care and support from her family.
Abuse of the elderly is “unfortunately a daily occurrence” he sees regularly in court and which he was sure happens outside court a good deal more regularly.
There was “nothing surreptitious” about installation of the cameras, he said. The daughter, conscious of GDPR obligations, had notified the HSE in advance of the family’s intention and carers were also told.
A HSE Home Support Services Manager had said the HSE safeguarding team had advised, in the context of safeguarding vulnerable adults, location of cameras in the bedroom, shower and living room was deemed abuse and the cameras should be taken down.
It was also indicated the cameras could result in withdrawal of care services.
If there is any allegation, “daylight is the best disinfectant”, the judge said.
He sympathised with the family who have shown such care for their mother and said it was “very high handed” of the HSE to allege abuse when it had not responded to the daughter’s email or visited the house.
The HSE application was “unjustified and unjustifiable”, the family were “rightly upset and annoyed” about it and he would dismiss it, he said.
The HSE had outlined the designation of abuse was set out in a policy document concerning the safeguarding of vulnerable adults but the cameras had “precisely that objective”, to safeguard the woman and those looking after her.
He also could not understand how there could be objection to the carers work being recorded “if it was of a high standard, as it should be”.
The HSE was “prodigal” with a claim of abuse when no such abuse could be regarded as having taken place and when the CCTV was installed with the woman’s best interests in mind.
This application was “improperly brought” and he would mark the court’s displeasure by awarding costs to the family at the highest level, solicitor and own client basis, against the HSE.
Noting the family stopped the CCTV recording when the HSE initiated this application, he said they may resume the recording.