ABUSE of the elderly in some care homes could be a thing of the past after an innovative pilot project from a North-East company is rolled out on the other side of the world.

Yarm-based Care Protect will install its movement-triggered CCTV cameras in nursing homes in Australia in response to a major elder abuse scandal there.

The company is carrying out a pilot project on behalf of the government in state-run care homes in Adelaide and the surrounding area.

It follows a scandal amongst South Australia’s care homes, which was first uncovered in the Oakden nursing home in Adelaide.

The home was shut after a damning report showed elder abuse and neglect which had seen abuse reported to the police, and a coroners’ inquiry underway into at least one death there. After the abuse was uncovered many subsequent instances were reported at other care homes, leading to a Royal Commission inquiry being set up to investigate. The Federal Government has already announced plans to set up a powerful new watchdog as part of a review of the care system.

Care Protect, which has its company headquarters and financial team on Yarm High Street, and its operational base in Belfast, has won the government contract for the first wave of cameras in care homes.

The cameras can be set for different triggers and are not just for recording – they will be live-monitored by teams of health professionals working from Care Protect’s Belfast site.

Care Protect’s monitoring system employs the latest sound and motion sensitive technology which, when activated by a ‘resident event’, triggers recording which, within seconds alerts the 24/7 professional monitor. This reduces risk because assistance can be provided to a resident within seconds of the event having occurred, and encourages staff behaviour conducive to a low risk environment.

As in the UK, independent, experienced health and social care professionals will monitor the recordings.

The use of camera surveillance is widely supported by the public in the UK. Care Protect research revealed that around two-thirds of people would be more likely to choose a care home for a family member if independently monitored event triggered cameras were in place.

Philip Scott, founder of Care Protect, said: “The care sector in Australia has been under fire for a couple of years now, triggered by a number of high-profile cases.Understandably, the use of cameras in a care setting is an emotive subject and I am sure any debate will trigger concerns about intrusion into people’s privacy. However, such fears should not stifle an informed debate about technologies that can materially improve safeguarding for vulnerable people.”

Ben Wilson, UK director of Care Protect, said: "The bedroom cameras are dormant until triggered by motion, sound or changes in lighting, depending on the setting.

"It reduces the risk of anything occurring again and is like an external quality assurance for the care home."

The pilot scheme will run for 12 months, when it may be rolled out.