Care Home Handbook

Contents

Introduction

The right to vote is central to involvement in our community and our sense of personal dignity. It is highly valued by citizens of the United Kingdom. Without a vote, residents don’t have a voice in society and lose their say in how it is run.

Residents of care homes are eligible to register to vote, and can all request access to postal votes should mobility be an issue. However, citizens in care homes are much less likely to be registered than the wider community. Some of this will be due to capability issues, but can also be a result of voter registration being overlooked in the complex process of moving from independent living to residential care, or moving between care homes.

This handbook sets out to help care home managers to understand the requirements of the electoral canvass, how they can use their expertise to improve the experience for their residents, and make them aware of the support available from the Electoral Services Team.

Electoral registration is a legal requirement, and we want to work with care homes to ensure that the right outcome is reached for each resident. Support is available to assist residents, and this can help to ensure that the administrative burden is reduced to a minimum.

We look forward to establishing a partnership which ensures that your residents can have the right to vote in any election, should they wish to use it.

The Electoral Canvass

For most care homes, the electoral canvass consists of the production and return of two sets of forms:

The Household Enquiry Form (HEF)

Normally posted, with follow-up visits by council canvassers, this form asks the householder (or manager of residential homes) to list residents at an address.

Information from this canvass is used to check the existing electoral roll. Any changes suggested by this exercise will result in the production of a letter to a new elector called an ‘Invitation to Register’.

Invitation to Register letter (ITR)

Usually sent in the post, these letters include a registration form to allow the recipient to apply for registration. To complete successfully, the elector needs to have their National Insurance Number to hand, otherwise there will be future correspondence seeking copies of documents to confirm identity.

For most care homes, the HEF information simply requires copying from an existing document. You can avoid this task by submitting a copy of the home’s register, redacted as appropriate, as we only require the residents’ names and dates of birth to begin the registration process. It would be best to do this quarterly to ensure that changes are easily managed in small batches. This can be supplied by email. Care home managers can support the ITR process by helping residents to complete paper forms, or to register online. It is common for care home residents not to have access to their National Insurance Number, not to have a valid passport and, obviously, they have few regular bills to prove their ID. In such cases a responsible person from the care home can sign an attestation which will serve as confirmation of identity.

Support

Bassetlaw District Council will provide support for care homes through its Electoral Services Team. They can help residents complete forms, register online using their iPads, organise postal votes and confirm their identity. They are also responsible for maintaining relationships with care home management, making direct contact to discuss issues at least once a year.

The Electoral Services Team is also the first point of contact for care homes in case of any problems or queries. Residents can make contact directly if they require assistance, but in most cases contact will be requested by care home staff. In addition to personal assistance with form filling, registration, etc, they are also happy to attend resident meetings to talk about voting and registration.

In the busy period leading up to and during the move into residential care, registering to vote can sometimes be overlooked. Including voter registration in the settling in process does help signal that moving into care does not mean a new resident’s citizenship is diminished.

Confirmation of identity

For some residents of care homes, it can be difficult to confirm their identity with supporting documents such as passport, driving licence, utility bills, etc. In many cases they will rely upon a statement from their care home, attesting that they are who they say they are.

Please contact the Electoral Services Team for advice on this issue.

Capability

This is a difficult area. There is no legal definition of capability to vote, the assumption being that everyone can vote if they are eligible, irrespective of any physical or mental capacity issues. This suggests that everyone must register to vote even if they would not be able to vote in practice. However, there will be individuals for whom the process of registering is beyond their mental capacity and who would be distressed by doing it.

In effect this is the key measure for people who are exempted from registration – capacity and distress. In such cases, the care home should inform the Electoral Services Team.

Where a resident has a physical impediment which could interfere with their ability to vote, this can be addressed in a number of ways:

If a resident has difficulty completing a form they can be helped by an outreach canvasser. It is easy to make an appointment to do this by calling the Electoral Services Team.

A postal vote can be issued to any resident who might have difficulty attending at a polling station in person.

If a resident cannot produce a consistent signature for their postal vote, a waiver can be granted to allow them to vote without a signature. This is only allowed in a small number of cases.

A resident can appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. This can be a friend or member of their family.

Please contact the Electoral Services Team if you have a resident who requires assistance in such a case.

Assistance and Contact

Bassetlaw District Council Electoral Services Team

The Team can be contacted by phone on 01909 533 252 or by email: elections@bassetlaw.gov.uk

Information is available on Individual Electoral Registration.

Frequently asked questions

Registering to be a voter

Are my residents entitled to be registered?

Yes, as long as they are permanently resident at your home, are 16 or 17 or over, and are British, Irish, Commonwealth or European Union citizens.

When and how should they apply to be registered?

The registration system changed in June 2014, making each resident responsible for their registration. Although there is still an annual canvass, the process is now continuous across the year. Residents can apply using paper form, online, or with the assistance of an outreach canvasser.Care Homes remain responsible for completing the Household Enquiry Form (HEF), detailing every resident at the address.

What else has changed about the new registration system?

To make the registration system more secure, applicants must now provide identifying information (date of birth and national insurance number) as part of their application. These details will be checked against government records to verify the identity of the person making the application.

Does each applicant have to sign their own application?

On the paper form, the applicant must make the declaration by signing or making their usual mark. On the online application, the applicant must confirm that the information is correct. Alternatively, a person who has an appropriate power of attorney may make the declaration on behalf of the applicant.

Can someone else, such as the Care Home Manager, sign the individual registration application form for them as a ‘pp’ or ‘power of attorney’ signatory?

Only a person with an appropriate power of attorney may complete a registration application and make the declaration of truth on behalf of an incapacitated person.

Applying to vote by post or by proxy

Our residents are unable to go to a polling station. Can they apply to vote by post?

Yes, any person who is individually registered to vote (and identity checked) can apply for a postal vote.

Does each applicant have to sign their own application?

Yes, each applicant must sign their own application form and they must also provide their date of birth on the form. These are then held by Electoral Services, and are checked when a postal vote is received at an election.

If the applicant is unable to sign, due to illness or disability for example, he or she may ask for a signature waiver, but they must give the reasons for asking for this waiver.

Can they appoint someone else – a proxy – to vote for them?

Yes, but acceptable reasons must be given for applying for a proxy vote. These will include visual impairment or registered disability, or a supporting statement from a doctor or Care Home Manager.

Can we act as a proxy for a voter with severe learning disabilities who would not otherwise be able to exercise their own choice?

We would not advise Care Home Managers to act as a proxy for any of their residents. Apart from the fact that a non-family member can only act as proxy for a maximum of two other voters, it is far better that a resident’s family member or other contact should act as their proxy. Otherwise, this question still comes down to whether the person would be able to exercise, on their own, an individual choice.

Our residents have severe learning disabilities / dementia. Can we vote for them?

No, this is not possible in election law unless you are the appointed proxy for a resident. It will also be important to ask, could the resident have exercised an individual choice on their own?

One of our residents has dementia, but they always voted for such and such a party, and we feel they would still want to vote that way. Can we vote for them?

As above, no, unless you are the appointed proxy. But, the same question of individual choice arises.

We have heard some of the media reports about postal voting misuse and fraud. What advice do you give us on this one?

Postal voting fraud has been very topical and the law concerning postal voting fraud was recently tightened up. Unless they have a signature waiver, the voter must sign the Postal Voting Statement themselves using their usual signature, and they must enter their date of birth on the statement. The statement is checked against the specimen signature and date of birth that we hold; we have a policy of referring what may be fraudulent statements to the police.

We advise you to take a cautious role. You would be quite right in guiding the resident with the fairly complex forms and envelopes, but the resident must sign and date the statement them.


Last Updated on Monday, May 24, 2021