Philip is a learning disabled man living in a residential care home. One evening he slipped and hurt himself while bathing, and subsequently became very anxious about getting in the bath. In order to reassure him and rebuild his confidence the care home managers arranged for a carer, usually female, to sit in the room with him as he bathed.

Philip’s female carers felt uncomfortable with the arrangement. One carer, Jane, reflected during a BIHR training session: ‘I knew in my heart he was being treated without dignity, and now I recognise that his human rights are perhaps being violated.’

A discussion of the human rights principle of dignity had served as a ‘trigger’ for Jane and together with co-workers she was able to develop solutions that would both protect Philip’s dignity, whilst also providing him with the support he needed.

She decided to use human rights language in her discussions with the care home managers about Philip’s care. Specifically, Jane explained that Philip had a right not to be treated in an inhuman and degrading way (Article 3), and a right to respect for his private life (Article 8). She suggested that in order for Philip’s rights to be respected, a new care assessment should be carried out, as in her view he needed proper manual assistance with getting in and out of the bath. In the meantime she resolved to erect a screen in the bathroom for herself and other carers to sit behind while Philip bathed, to preserve his dignity.