Robert Houlgate, Service Development & Delivery Manager for BHA Leeds Skyline, shares his reflections on using a human rights approach.

I am the HIV support service manager for BHA Leeds Skyline and came into post half way through our 3 year project with BIHR. BHA is a health and social care charity which exists to challenge and address health and social care inequalities and support individuals, families and communities to improve their health and well-being. We offer a range of services delivered at local, regional and national level in the areas of HIV and sexual health, cancer, TB, mental health, community health education and engaging and involving communities in health and social care decision making.

My role is to ensure the day to day business of supporting HIV positive people accessing BHA services in Leeds and to develop the support services to the benefit of our service users, organisation, staff, volunteers and stakeholders so our partnership working with BIHR fitted in very nicely.

Mental health is an issue that affects many of our service users so people from marginalised groups living with HIV are further made vulnerable by mental ill health. The programme with BIHR for staff and service users enabled us to understand the rights protected, the application of different laws and how to use human rights to challenge poor practice.

The staff training was very good for us as an organisation. Human rights is now a standing item in our support team meetings and in full team meetings. It has been embedded in the way we work now.

Our service has used the right to life, the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to liberty for the benefit of our service users with positive outcomes for most. More importantly two separate service users have used the Human Rights Act to benefit family members. 

 The resources are great, easy to understand and use

As we were part of the group that provided case studies for the production of BIHR resources we became aware of the reluctance of most of our service users to pursue the arguments with the service providers due to worries around disclosure of their HIV status, immigration or sexual/gender identity. This has been the main challenge for our support team. However, when we did challenge using the right to life (protected by Article 2 in the HRA) for an in-patient, the medical team reacted well and addressed the issue promptly.

We were able to challenge a Do Not Resuscitate Order that applied to a cancer patient, when the right conversations had not taken place. We raised the right to life, and the outcome was effective for the patient.

My take on human rights

As a Gay man full equality is important to me and those in my communities and human rights are an essential part of this confidence of living in the UK.