Gemma is in her late 40s and has a learning disability. She had previously been living with her mum but after her mum passed away, the local authority paid for Gemma to be placed in a local care home. The home was inappropriate for Gemma as it was a home for older people and didn’t provide the kind of support she needed.

The care home had a locked door, to prevent people affected by dementia from leaving without the correct support. This meant that Gemma wasn’t able to come and go from the home freely as she had previously been able to do when living with her mum. Gemma was also contributing weekly to funds for financial activities at the home, but was told by staff that she was not allowed to take part in the activities as they were not age appropriate for her.

Gemma was very distressed by living in an inappropriate setting, especially as it had happened after her mum died, and by not being able to come and go from the home as she wished. Gemma didn’t want to raise this directly with the care home so she contacted her local Healthwatch about this. Healthwatch staff had attended human rights training by the British Institute of Human Rights and recognised this as a human rights issue.

The Healthwatch staff decided to arrange a series of ‘Enter and View’ visits to five local care homes, so as not to identify Gemma directly. They talked to staff and people living in the homes about their human rights and whether they were able to come and go as they like, which is part of their right to liberty (protected by Article 5 in the Human Rights Act).

The local Healthwatch wrote a report on each home. Amongst the findings, the report uncovered that Gemma was living in an inappropriate setting. As a result, the local authority now support Gemma to live independently in her own flat where she is much happier.

Example from Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen, a partner on BIHR's project Care and Support: A Human Rights Approach to Advocacy

This story is also shared in BIHR's booklet Mental Health, Mental Capacity: Raising a Human Rights Issue