15 MARCH 1975, Page 3

Old people's homes

The welfare organisation, Age Concern, has in its latest recommendations to the Government and the public, drawn attention to an important area of potential abuse of a section of the community who may not be able to look after themselves. It is a fact which few people realise that neither local authorities nor central government have any real power to exercise control over privately-run homes for old people. A great deal of improving legislation in the last decade has been devoted to the interests and problems of young people. We have had, in particular, the Children and Young Persons' Act of 1969, which removed from the courts virtually all power to impose legal discipline on young offenders; as a result, local authority social welfare departments are greatly overburdened with case work. But, in spite of this willingness to bend over backwards to make life easier for the young, government is apparently unwilling to do anything at all to exercise supervision over care for the old. Just as children's homes and schools are subject to inspection and to rules, so homes designed for elderly people should similarly be required to meet certain minimum standards.