As a provider of mental healthcare and accommodation, St Martin of Tours Housing Association supports people with mental health issues and offender backgrounds who need help to maintain their independence or to step down from secure hospital wards, prisons and similar situations.

Prior to getting involved in BIHR’s project, the housing association were very hands off about room searches, drugs and managing visitors. Their managing director felt liberated to find out that the right to respect for private life is a non-absolute right which can be balanced against the rights of others, prevention of crime etc. They’ve been able to use that framework to build room searches into residents’ care plans and help keep drugs out of the housing units. They also had a blanket ban on visitors going upstairs in the units because some residents had a history of sexual offence. The housing association used human rights to amend their policy and assess visiting on an individual basis, which allows them to balance safety against their residents’ right to privacy.

Following an incident in one of their housing units, where a member of staff was assaulted, they used human rights to review their internal policies and practices on dealing with violent behaviour. They are now recording incidences of physical and/or verbal aggression more closely, assessing people to ensure they are getting the mental health support they need, working more closely with the police and talking about this with residents and neighbours as a positive step to create a safe environment for well-being and recovery. As a result, violent incidences have been reduced by 50% and evictions are also down.

Read a blog written by Paul Holden, Operations Manager at St Martin of Tours, reflecting on using human rights in practice.