In March 2015, we at The British Institute of Human Rights were awarded an exciting, innovative contract to deliver the Care Quality Commission’s Equality & Human Rights Learning Programme. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the regulator of health and social care across England, and employs over 3,000 staff to ensure that the health and social care services we all use on a day-to-day basis are safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. In September 2014, the CQC adopted a new human rights approach to regulation, and this learning programme was a key part of making that approach a reality.

Over the last year, we’ve been training all CQC staff, from the policy, strategy and intelligence teams, to inspection and registration teams, to understand what equality and human rights mean in the places they regulate, from GP surgeries and care homes, to ambulance services and hospitals. We’ve also delivered a series of webinars on pressing human rights issues such as the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and Do Not Resuscitate Orders.

While the programme has been informative and exciting on many fronts, one aspect has emerged as truly unique: the Leads’ Programme. This is a bespoke A-level equivalent course, designed and delivered by BIHR, and accredited by the Open College Network. 50 CQC staff enrolled from across the organisation. In their role as Leads they will be responsible for embedding, developing and championing this learning on equality and human rights once our contract with the CQC ends in March 2016.

We met for 6 days in total in various locations across the UK, to tease out the complexities of topics such as unconscious bias, reading legal judgments, and identifying and raising equality and human rights issues. It was a real privilege to watch the Leads grow in confidence and skill as the programme progressed. By Day 6 they were deftly discussing the links between the Human Rights Act and the CQC’s Regulations, and reflecting on the time, resources and knowledge they will require to fulfil their full potential in supporting their colleagues in the future.

In addition to being a formative and exciting experience for those of us at BIHR who delivered the programme, our evaluation data shows that participants themselves found the course relevant and engaging.

“This is the best programme I have attended. The variety and knowledge of all the BIHR staff, and the spread of learning days and assignments over the months has been great.”

“I think BIHR have been fantastic. I have so looked forward to attending the course each time and I have not been disappointed.”

Our thanks go to the Equality & Human Rights Commission for securing funding for the Programme in its entirety, and to the newly-graduated Leads’ themselves, for their good humour, dedication, and hard work. We wish them all the best for the future.