A relative in need of help brings home the importance of human rights

Equally Ours’ Director Nicky Hawkins blogs about the importance of human rights in care: 

Today the Care Quality Commission announced that a new ‘mum test’ will form part of standards for rating care providers. Inspectors will consider whether they would be happy for their own parent to be looked after in each home they visit.

My own mum has recently had a spell in hospital. She’s being cared for at home now and her stay was mercifully brief. For me, hearing about her experience – from the trauma of a bad night to the relief of having someone sit with her and explain what’s going on – brought home the vital importance of human rights for people who are reliant on others for their care.

Human rights mean there’s a system in place if something goes wrong. But, just as importantly, they provide reassurance to people who are vulnerable when they most need it. Jan, one of Equally Ours’ fantastic spokespeople says “the Human Rights Act helped me to feel stronger because it told me it’s ok to want to be treated like a human being.” What could be more important when you’re frightened and alone?

As part of today’s announcement, the Care Quality Commission said that there’s too much “awful care” at the moment. This staggering admission highlights the many thousands of mums, dads and other loved ones who may be enduring situations that are both inhumane and illegal. It underlines how vital robust human rights laws are.

When things go wrong on a massive scale or over a prolonged period, human rights laws help to secure fairness for those directly affected and to trigger important changes for society as a whole. When 100 families of victims of mistreatment at Staffordshire Hospital used the Human Rights Act to seek justice, they secured compensation for the appalling treatment their relatives had been subjected to. But they also sparked a far-reaching enquiry looking at what could be done to prevent institutionalised inhumanity in future.

As a mum and a daughter, I welcome the idea of the ‘mum test’ as a shorthand and a way of personalising the experience of assessing care homes. But I want to feel sure that there’s a wider safety net in place so that everyone gets treated as a human being, whatever their situation and whoever is – or isn’t – looking after them.