Our good friends at TFN published the article below posing the question ‘Would you put CCTV in your elderly mum’s home?’

One of the main pieces of equipment we use is our SOL Connect Hub. The Hub is a touch screen computer that has specially developed software installed on it. It is one of the many ways we can deliver remote support to the people we work for. Essentially a person can put a call through to a member of our team and receive face to face support via the Hub, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. To enable us to do this effectively our Hubs utilise the inbuilt camera that many computers come with nowadays. It’s not CCTV, and we wouldn’t want it to be, but it still gives the option of using a camera system in a person’s home.

In the early days of SOL Connect we encountered similar types of questions as mentioned in TFN. Many people mistaking our form of remote support as some type of ‘big brother is watching you’. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact our use of the SOL Connect Hub is an excellent example how individuals and organisations can benefit by using remote support, including cameras, as a way of receiving a different type of support.

We work with the individual, their friends and families, partner organisations and social work professionals to ensure strict guidelines are in place to ensure the person’s privacy is maintained whilst enabling them to get the maximum use of their SOL Connect package. These guidelines are formed by listening to how the person wants to use their remote support, why they want to use it and how we can tailor new pieces of technology enabled care to meet their needs.

If we were to think back 15 years ago when the use of ‘camera phones’ was a relatively new thing and seen by some as being a bit of a novelty. Fast forward 15 years and now 66% of British people aged between 15-64* use a smartphone; a personal device, which in some cases, lets the user shoot 4k footage and allows them to stream this to the entire world via the internet. With technology advancing at such a rapid rate we believe the fields of social care and health care will benefit greatly from the many advancements in technology enabled care, including how we utilise cameras in the home.

Using a camera to intrude on a person’s privacy is wrong, but if the correct protocols and guidelines are adhered to, it can be an invaluable way of delivering support that enables a person to achieve positive outcomes whilst giving the person a greater degree of independence, choice and control in their life. Just ask some of the people we work for!

* Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report: United Kingdom

The use of covert cameras in the home is a controversial issue, but one which is being given serious consideration by some people in recent months. With 8.6% of older people having experienced abuse in their own homes (and these are just those who have spoken up), elder abuse is a shameful blight on our society. Some care homes use cameras, but is doing so in someone’s own home a step too far?

Through Action on Elder Abuse ‘s helpline, I’ve heard about appalling cases of abuse, neglect and ill-treatment, from verbal and psychological abuse, to horrendous physical abuse. The perpetrators are usually family members or carers, although we also hear of cases involving other workers, bogus tradesmen or neighbours.

The most commonly reported type of abuse is financial, with calls to our helpline relating to financial abuse doubling over the last year. However, this type of abuse is often difficult to identify and prove. People with dementia are often specifically targeted as they are less likely to understand what is happening. Unfortunately, this can mean that many believe it’s not happening, assuming the older person is confused, imagining things, or has misplaced money or possessions.

So how do we put an end to this appalling scourge? Should we urge people to install covert cameras as a hard and fast way to expose and prosecute abuse, or is this a massive intrusion of privacy? There’s no denying that all older people have the same rights to privacy, dignity and respect as anyone else.

While I appreciate that surveillance can expose abuse, other less intrusive options can work better. Any vulnerable adult, including anyone concerned about them, can contact their local council who can investigate concerns. In many cases this is likely to be the most appropriate action, rather than an almost vigilante option of taking matters into your own hands.

On the other hand, as some types of abuse can be difficult to prove, surveillance could provide undisputable evidence, making it easier to secure prosecutions. We spoke to Simon Berlin a few months ago who installed cameras in his mother’s home after he suspected her carer was stealing from her. The cameras proved that the carer had indeed been stealing, leading to a conviction – something Simon believed wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t installed the cameras.

So what’s the way forward? I can see the benefits of surveillance and appreciate it may work in some situations. However I’d only support it if the older person (or whoever they’ve appointed to make decisions on their behalf) has full control over its use, there’s a strong reason to suspect abuse, and if there is no other way of resolving the issue.

I do think, however, that this debate diverts from the real issue, which is that all older people should have the right to high-quality care, support and dignity, and no one should be living in fear of abuse, degradation or ill-treatment”.

Lesley Carcary is director of Action on Elder Abuse Scotland. To join the debate on CCTV in relation to tackling financial abuse, book your place at AEA Scotland’s national conference on 13 June.