At BIHR we know the difference human rights can make to helping achieve accountable and high quality health and care services. Our project Care and Support: A Human Rights Approach to Advocacy is working with six groups to ensure people with mental health and capacity issues have increased control and autonomy over treatment decisions, and make sure they are treated with dignity and respect.

Health and social care which respects, protects and fulfils human rights has an important role in ensuring people can live dignified lives and participate in decision making. A human rights approach offers fresh ways into the age-old problem of how to keep human beings, rather than systems or targets, at the heart of delivery. It can support culture change towards person-centred approaches. This requires increased understanding – particularly among patients, carers and service users and their advocates – of how human rights can be put into practice. This is what is at the heart of BIHR’s exciting partnership project, which has been made possible by a grant from the Department of Health as part of their Voluntary Sector Investment Programme 2014-15.

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Who is involved?

BIHR is the lead organisation for this project, working to support six advocacy groups (as partners on the project):

Project aims

The focus of this project is to improve outcomes for people using services who have mental health and/or capacity issues. The project has four main aims:

  • Empower voluntary and community groups to support the people they work with who have mental health/capacity issues to have increased control and autonomy over treatment decisions and be treated with dignity and respect. We are running a series of free learning events for third sector organisations to help achieve this outcome. Click here for more information.
  • Enable advocacy and support organisations to embed a human rights approach across their work, particularly to support people with mental health/capacity issues.
  • Improve knowledge and confidence of service users to advocate for their own human rights in health and care settings. We will be creating some new resources to help achieve this.
  • Stregthen the ability of voluntary and community groups to disseminate learning on a human rights approach to advocacy and support in health and care. We will be creating some new resources to assist with this.

Good practice examples


Moira was in her 40s and had suffered with severe tinnitus and deafness in one ear for three years. This caused an incessant loud noise in her head which was having a significant impact on her mental health. Moira’s consultant thought that she could benefit from a cochlear implant and was willing to perform the operation but the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) repeatedly refused to fund it.

Moira and her family were severely depressed by the situation. Moira felt that her life was no longer worth living, and at one stage attempted to take her own life.

Moira was in touch with an advocate who had attended one of our project learning events. This advocate supported her to go back to her GP to explain the impact the CCG’s decision was having on her. Armed with some research that showed how someone in a similar situation had benefitted from a cochlear implant, Moira used her right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment (protected by Article 3 of the Human Rights Act) and told her GP that she thought it would be inhumane to leave her suffering when treatment was available. The GP eventually managed to secure funding for her treatment from an alternative source. Moira and her family were overjoyed. Moira felt that she was getting her life back and her children were getting their mum back.

How can I get involved?

Third sector: we are running free learning events for people who work for a third sector organisation on mental health/capacity issues. If you'd like to attend, more information is available here.

Public sector: if you work for a public sector organisation, there may be other ways to engage in the project later on, or via our other project Delivering Compassionate Care: Connecting Human Rights to the Frontline. If you are interested, please join the mailing list for these two projects by emailing Jasmine on

Individuals: if you are an individual who uses mental health or mental capacity services and would like to learn more about your human rights, we will be creating some resources on this, so please watch this space!

Project contact

Helen Wildbore, Senior Human Rights Officer at BIHR will be the project liaison and is contactable on