Joseph is a young man with learning disabilities who spends several days each week at a day centre. Sometimes he tries to harm himself – pulling his hair out and biting his own hands. These incidents might happen every week, sometimes lasting for an entire morning or afternoon.

Initially, the day centre managers decided that to keep Joseph from harming himself, they would use splints to keep his arms straight when the incidents occurred. However, over a five year period, the time Joseph spent wearing splints increased until he ended up spending most days in them.

After accessing human rights training form BIHR, staff realised that using the splints in this way, for extended periods of time, was risking Joseph’s right to respect for his private life (Article 8), and his right not to be treated in an inhuman or degrading way (Article 3) which they had a duty to respect and protect under the Human Rights Act. Following training staff saw that whilst it may have been necessary to use the splints in limited and rare circumstances to prevent serious harm; however forcing him to wear the splints almost every day was not a proportionate measure, as at most his attempts to harm himself occurred once a week. This regular and disproportionate treatment of Joseph could also amount to inhuman and degrading treatment, which is never allowed.

By rethinking and putting Joseph’s human rights at the heart of their decision-making, staff relooked at the situation and came up with proportionate and rights-respecting ways to keep Joseph safe.  Rather than spending most days in splints Joseph is now able to take part in activities in the day centre as he wishes.