Mrs Smith has a 13-year-old son, Daniel. Daniel has Down’s syndrome and a long history of causing harm to himself and his family due to diagnosed behavioural disorders. As a result of the local authority’s refusal to provide additional support, Daniel had not been out of the family home for weeks and Mrs Smith was extremely concerned that he was going to seriously harm himself or another member of his family.

The Down ’s syndrome Association had previously worked with BIHR on using the Human Rights Act to support the families and carers they work with. Their approach is not a combative one – instead they encourage local authorities and service providers to use the HRA as a decision-making framework. This makes it easier for carers to explain to local authorities how their decisions might have a negative impact on families, even when the local authority is trying to act according to what it thinks are their best interests.

In this case, the DSA wrote to the local authority arguing that their failure to provide the family with necessary support risked breaching the rights of Daniel and his mother to respect for private and family life (Article 8).

Daniel’s respite care was soon increased, and arrangements were made by the local authority for him and his family to access further assessment and support. Daniel had lots more to do and his behavioural disorders gradually began to improve; as a result he and his family were able to enjoy their time spent together again.