The Human Rights Act (HRA) is a vital safety net for us all, protecting the fundamental freedoms of everyone in society. It is particularly important for people in vulnerable situations, including people with mental health or mental capacity problems, who are often denied their basic human rights. The cruelty of cases such as Winterbourne View has highlighted the indifference and abuse that people with capacity issues can be subjected to within health and social care settings. They are sobering reminders of how, when we are placed in situations where others have power over us there is potential for that power to be abused or misused which engage our most basic human rights.

There are lots of situations in everyday life where knowing about human rights can help improve people's lives, empowering them to make decisions, ensuring inclusion and participation in the community, and providing vital legal protections. BIHR's project work and resources help to raise awareness and support people to put human rights into practice, check out our Human Rights in Healthcare projects.

The HRA places legal duties on public authorities - including healthcare services, local authorities and social services - to respect, protect and fulfil people’s human rights in their day-to-day practice. This includes in the way they make decisions and exercise their powers and functions under different laws, such as the Mental Capacity Act and Mental Health Act. In some cases the HRA may also require positive action to protect rights. This can include protecting a person when they are known to be at risk of having certain rights abused and having the right procedures and systems in place to protect our rights. Check out our Mental Health Advocacy Guide for more information.

Our policy work also highlights how the Human Rights Act provides an important yardstick to measure how well mental health law, policy and practice is meeting people's basic human rights.

Read more about our work on this