8 February 2021

On February 1st 2021, we were excited to deliver a free session on human rights in health and social care to members of the National Care Forum. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a bright spotlight on situations where human rights are at risk in health and social care settings. Our online human rights sessions work to address this by supporting providers of care services to use a human rights approach in decision making.

Our human rights laws ensure accountability in the delivery of health and care services. At BIHR we support staff to see the legislation as a practical tool for service delivery, not as a big stick. This is more important than ever - during Covid-19 staff are having to making incredibly tough decisions, often balancing one person’s rights with another’s, the rights of family members with the rights of the individual and balancing different rights themselves, for example protecting the right to life whilst still ensuring the right to family life.


Applying Human Rights in the provision and planning of care and support

This 1-hour free session led by the British Institute of Human Rights used real examples of human rights which apply across different settings such as home-care, residential care, housing, day care and more.

  • Human Rights law: What is the legal duty on not-for-profit organisations in the care and support sector? What does this look like in policy and practice?
  • How does the Human Rights Act work alongside other pieces of guidance and legislation?
  • The rights within the Human Rights Act with a focus on 1-2 most relevant to the provision of care and support.
  • Top tips for applying human rights every day

You can find out a bit more about BIHR’s work below.

Who we are

At BIHR we work in four different areas, all of which feed into each other. We work with people and communities to support them to know and claim their rights, with public officials to support them to use human rights in their practice and at a policy level, amplifying these voices for change when policy and legislation create barriers to the realisation of rights. Our mission and aims remain the same as they always have. However, since the start of the pandemic, we like so many other organisations have moved the majority of our work online. Since March, we have trained over 1400 public officials (and those delivering a public function, such as care) through our online courses.



Covid-19 and our work

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives over the past year. However, it has been clear that those in already vulnerable situations have been most at risk of human rights violations. 

According to research we conducted in 2020:

  • Over 16.3% of people who access services that responded to our survey experienced the right to life not being protected due to reduced services or the prioritization of other services.
  • Nearly 28% of people experienced a reduction in care or support which resulted in dignity not being upheld
  • Over 50% of people experienced restrictions which impacted their right to mental and physical well-being and to family life.

Keeping human rights at the centre of all decisions made in health and care services during Covid-19 is crucial. A human rights approach to decision-making helps service providers make the difficult decisions they are faced with in lawful and proportionate ways which keep the people using their services safe whilst ensuring their rights are upheld.

In light of this, we swiftly moved our human rights sessions online to make sure we could continue to reach both the people accessing services and the service providers and provide human rights support. We are grateful to our funders who have made this move possible and allowed us to offer a limited number of short, free sessions to those receiving services. We have also continued to provide longer, bespoke sessions to organisations to provide human rights support to equip frontline decision-makers and service providers with the knowledge and confidence to apply human rights in their practice every day.

Watch our video ‘BIHR: 2020 a Year in Numbers’ to learn more about our work over the past year and our reach:

The longer sessions mean more time for questions, discussions and activities where staff can apply the learning to practice-based scenarios. Below are quotes from staff and service providers demonstrating the impact of our sessions:


If you’re interested in bespoke, online human rights sessions for your team, please contact our Programmes and Policy Manager Carlyn on [email protected]

Our frontline session delivery informs our policy and research work, which has focussed on investigating the reality of human rights during Covid-19 for the people we work with and informing national policy makers. Find out more about our policy work in 2020 here.


Human rights for service providers: from Covid-19 and beyond

Human rights belong to everyone from residents in a care home to the staff who care for them and the catering staff who make sure everyone is fed. However, under the Human Rights Act (HRA), public officials also have a legal duty to respect, protect and fulfil people’s human rights. Crucially, this legal duty does not only apply to traditional public services but also to private and charitable bodies who are delivering a function of “public nature”. This includes the provision of care and support. The CQC also have a legal duty to inspect based on the HRA.

From our experience working in the care and support sector we know that organisations work better when they use a human rights-based approach, staff have an effective decision-making framework and those that use the service are empowered to know and use their rights.

The framework for making rights-respecting decisions is as important as ever during Covid-19, where public health concerns have resulted in blanket policies, which are rarely human rights compliant. Striking the right balance between different rights with visiting policies is one major challenge service provides are tackling. Restrictions on being able to see other people, particularly restrictions on visits to hospitals and care homes, impact people’s right to private and family life as it limits the ability to maintain relationships with loved ones. All too often, service providers find themselves in a tough position, struggling with local government decisions, national government decisions, numerous changes to existing legislation and policy at short notice whilst trying to provide rights respecting services in the face of huge pressures. BIHR’s role is to help services go back to basics and use the Human Rights Act - it is the foundation law meaning other legislation must be applied compatibly. Human rights training can support staff during Covid-19 and beyond.

Human rights provide a powerful practical tool for ensuring proportionate responses to the pandemic which keep people safe while respecting their rights and dignity.

On Human Rights Day 2020 (10 December), we shared videos made with people we have worked with talking about what human rights mean to them and how they are making change through human rights. You can find them all here. Listen to one staff member, Sarah Jay, talk about how human rights help her make decisions in her everyday practice:

Get in touch now to find out how we can support your team to know and use human rights in your work - Programmes and Policy Manager, Carlyn on [email protected].