Relatives & Residents Association

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Human rights in care

12 January 2022:

The Relatives & Residents Association has told Parliament that older people are facing the most sustained, serious attack on their rights we’ve ever seen. R&RA’s director gave oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, as part of their inquiry into rights in care settings. Helen Wildbore said older people have been failed by the very systems designed to protect their rights:

“Fundamental rights to life and wellbeing for people in care were neglected at the beginning of the pandemic. Care users are still paying for the mistakes the Government made as policy swung dramatically to the other extreme, placing the most stringent, far reaching restrictions on movements in and out of care settings.

“In the name of keeping people safe from the virus, other rights are being infringed and untold harm is being caused to lives and wellbeing. People in care are facing discrimination and being left behind whilst the rest of the country gets back to normal. If this is what the Government meant by a protective ring, it is suffocating.”

In a wide ranging evidence session, R&RA’s director shared the experiences of our helpline clients of the devastating impact infringements of rights have on people using their care and their families. Long-standing concerns around abuse, neglect, family contact, lack of liberty and autonomy have been highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic:

“Our helpline hears daily of the ‘everyday’ breaches of rights which wouldn’t make the headlines; each time a person is dressed in someone else’s clothes, or left without their hearing aid. The subtle erosion of a person’s dignity can have a huge impact on people’s wellbeing, identity, and their sense of belonging.”

The session made a number of calls for urgent change, including:

  • a complete overhaul of visiting guidance to respect the rights of care users
  • for existing legal duties to be complied with, to end the damaging and entirely backwards situation of non-statutory guidance taking precedent over the law
  • face-to-face, meaningful contact with family carers to be recognised in law as a prerequisite to basic good care
  • mandatory training on human rights for the sector
  • for problems with staff retention to be addressed, to keep this knowledge within the sector
  • better, more robust oversight of services by the Care Quality Commission and more frequent inspections
  • a responsive central complaints procedure with powers to bring about meaningful change

There is a very long way to go to bring about a culture of respect for rights in the care sector, one of the stated aims of the Human Rights Act. But we must act urgently to end the human rights crisis in care and ensure older people are treated with dignity and respect, before it is too late for too many more.

Watch the evidence session here

Read our written evidence to the Committee here


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