22 July 2022

Today, Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published a report following its inquiry into protecting human rights in care settings in England. The report highlights multiple concerns on how the rights of residents in care settings and their loved ones have been, and continue to be, risked, and makes recommendations to Government on how these issues should be addressed.

The inquiry consisted of a call for written evidence, online survey, and five oral evidence sessions attended by panels of experts, including BIHR’s CEO Sanchita Hosali on 9th March 2022.

Click here to read JCHR’s report.

Click here to read the Easy Read version of the report.

What did the JCHR find out?

The JCHR pointed out the importance of adequate human rights training in care settings to make sure that staff meet their legal duty under the Human Rights Act to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. However, it noted that widespread human rights training is not available to most providers.

"As highlighted by the BIHR, “human rights cannot be reduced to ‘good practice’ or compassion or kindness. They are the law, with legal duties that staff must fulfil”. We agree with the BIHR that: Learning programmes must provide staff with a safe space to reflect on their current practice and to apply human rights in realistic scenarios. (p.20)

Gaps in rights-respecting practice were also found in the commissioning of health and care services, where, as our CEO Sanchita pointed out, there is “evidence that practical human rights considerations are often not taken into account”.

There were also fears about unequal access to rights protections for residents in private care homes who self-fund their care, who currently fall outside the protection of the Human Rights Act.

Concerns were also raised about:

How can human rights in care settings be protected?

The JCHR made recommendations to Government, independent regulators like the Care Quality Commission, and other stakeholders in order to improve human rights protections for people in care settings and their families.

This included a call for better learning support for practitioners working in care settings:

Specific training on human rights and its effects on the provision of services must be given by all registered providers to staff with the CQC working with all stakeholders to ensure this is taking place. (p.3)

BIHR wholehearted agrees with this recommendation. We are committed to enabling change through human rights by supporting people and organisations to use human rights advocacy and approaches in their everyday life to achieve positive social change. We work with staff in public bodies every day to improve knowledge and confidence to make rights-respecting decisions and bring about a culture of respect for human rights. And it works:

Find out more about BIHR’s work with public bodies here. Click here to get our training.

Other important recommendations to the Government in the JCHR’s report included:

  • A need to raise awareness about the appropriate use of DNACPR notices.
  • A need to review guidelines on the use of restrictive practices to ensure they comply with the requirements of human rights law.
  • A need to improve understanding of DoLS and widen access to legal aid.
  • A consultation on extending the protections of the HRA to those receiving care and support from all regulated providers, possibly through an amendment of the Care Act 2014 - not through a new bill of rights.
  • Legislation to protect residents and their loved ones against overly restrictive visiting arrangements.
  • Additional powers for the CQC and other regulators.

What about the Government's Rights Removal Bill?

In the report, the JCHR express serious concerns about how the Government's new "bill of rights" Bill, better know as a Rights Removal Bill, will impact on the rights of people living in care settings and their loved ones:

"Some of the provisions of that Bill will impact on the ability of vulnerable care users to have their human rights respected. […] Changes to the duties on public bodies […] will risk increasing the occasions when care users’ rights are not respected in practice." (p.5)

They call particular attention to parts of the Bill which will weaken the legal duty on public authorities to take proactive steps to protect the rights of care users (click here for our Need-to-Know guide on positive obligations), and remove the requirement for public authorities to apply other laws compatibly with human rights, as far as possible (click here for our Need-to-Know guide on the section 3 duty).

The JCHR’s recommendations are clear. Our Human Rights Act works. It is an important framework for ensuring the rights of people accessing care services, and all of us, are upheld. More work is needed to ensure it is properly implemented so that rights are made real for people every day. The Government’s Rights Removal Bill will only weaken our protections, make it harder to get justice when things go wrong, and put people’s rights at risk.

Click here to get BIHR's resources on the Rights Removal Bill, including briefings, Easy read guides, letter templates to write your MP, and joint campaigning actions with other concerned people and organisations.

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