Today is Carers Rights Day and the theme is ‘Helping You Find Your Way’. Careers week is organised by Carers UK and their aim is to make sure that carers are aware of their rights and where to get help and support as well as to draw attention to the needs of carers. At BIHR we see the amazing, but often undervalued, role that carers play and we welcome a much needed campaign to draw attention to carer’s rights.

Human rights and carers

Carers are often so busy providing support to the person that they care for that they do not think about their own needs or rights. There is often little awareness of how human rights relate to carers and the issues that they and the people that they care for face. Human rights are relevant to carers in so many ways. For example, when accessing support to maintain their own wellbeing whilst being a carer, being included in decision making processes and reviews, and being seen as a person in their own right.

Many carers have to navigate through a minefield of information to work out how they get access to the right benefits, support for themselves and the person they care for and help to plan for the future. At BIHR we regularly work with carers to support them in their role, both in terms of building knowledge to support the person they support to have their rights protected, but also in terms of articulating their own human rights.

Human rights are for everyone and embody key values that are protected and set out in law as part of the Human Rights Act.  The Act places a duty on public official to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. It provides a practical framework for carers and the services that they come into contact with to make sure that rights are understood and respected.

Key rights for carers

The rights contained in the Human Rights Act are there to protect people from discrimination, harm, degrading treatment and decisions that might risk their lives in some way.  Crucially, these rights are about ensuring that people have as much autonomy over their lives as possible and are included in vital decision making about their day to day lives.

Some of the rights that are most relevant to carers and the people they support are:

You can find out more about these rights here

How does the Human Rights Act made a difference?

Making government policies more carer friendly

The Human Rights Act was used by two carers and someone receiving care to successfully challenge the discriminatory impact of the benefit cap. One carer had been evicted from her home as she was unable to keep up with rent payments due to the cap and was no longer going to be able to provide her granddaughter with vital support to maintain her dignity and independence. Another carer was very close to becoming destitute as a result of deductions to his housing benefit.

The judge in this case found that the cap was in violation of all the claimants’ right to non-discrimination in the Human Rights Act (protected by Article 14) because it treated some family carers differently to others without a good enough reason to justify why. This was because the benefit cap did have some exemptions, but this was based on a narrowly defined definition of household to mean a parent or couple and their dependent child which did not reflect people’s lives in reality.

After this judgement, from November 2016, people in receipt of Carers Allowance, the underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance or a Carer Element within Universal Credit where made exempt from the benefit cap – a decision that has had a profound impact on many carers lives.

Helping to navigate difficult conversations

Human rights can be helpful when there is a difference of opinion between you and the person you provide support for:

Susan cares for her parents Barbara and Jerry who are in their late 70s and live in their own home. When Lemar a care support worker visited, it was clear Susan and her parents had very different views about what was needed. Susan wanted both her parents to stay in their home. Jerry however wanted to move into a care home as his health was deteriorating. This disagreement was causing stress and conflict. 

Lemar was able to diffuse this potentially difficult situation by using human rights to talk to Barbara and Jerry, and to Susan separately. As he’d attended BIHR training, Lemar was able to explain that Barbara and Jerry’s rights to autonomy (protected by Article 8 in the Human Rights Act) mean their views should be heard and respected. Explaining this to Susan helped her relook at the situation and accept her father’s rights. Importantly, by talking to Susan about her human rights too they were able to uncover that she was struggling to cope as the primary carer and needed support.

Using human rights in this way, to bring people together and help unpick problems, enabled the family to discuss the issue and come up with a plan to trial having paid carers at home. Lemar referred Barbara and Jerry, and Susan for the relevant assessments to get the support they needed.

 

Helping you find your way to human rights

We have a range of resources that are useful for carers in different settings. These can be downloaded or ordered for free from here and here.

Our new online human rights tool Know Your Human Rights is also useful for anyone supporting someone with a mental health and or capacity issue that is struggling to have their voice heard in a health and social care setting.