Councils have to consider the human rights of people who need care when making decisions about cuts to services.
When the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea changed Elaine McDonald’s care plan, meaning she would have to use incontinence pads during the night instead of having a carer to help, they started a big fight with a determined woman.
After becoming disabled following a stroke, Elaine is still able to use the loo, she just needs help getting there. The council agreed this was needed. But they also wanted to save money and therefore decided the cheaper option was for Elaine to use incontinence pads at night, something Elaine couldn’t imagine doing as she felt it was undignified.
It was this decision which has resulted in a landmark ruling at the European Court of Human Rights which found that, when making decisions about cuts in services, authorities have to consider the dignity of the person it effects.
Once Elaine’s needs were reassessed and found to be adequately met by reducing her care, her rights were no longer being breached. So, although she received some compensation, she has not won the right to the care she needs.
But the ruling has opened the door for more people to challenge decisions made around the provision of care. It has shown that when we use care services we all need our human rights to make sure we have privacy, dignity and independence and authorities can’t ignore these rights in the drive to save money.
Here is more information about the judgment on Elaine McDonald’s case.