Almost all of us will use social care services in our lifetime, or know someone who will. When we do, we rightly expect that we, and the people we care about, will receive care in a way that respects our basic human rights. We expect to be safe from harm and physical abuse, we expect not to suffer cruelty and we expect our basic human dignity to be upheld by those providing us with care.
Unfortunately, we know all too well that this does not always happen in practice. Winterbourne View, Operation Jasmine, the EHRC’s Close to Home report and the harrowing story of Gloria Foster are recent examples, and sadly there are more, of how the human rights of people receiving care have been breached.
When these kinds of abuses occur, it is vital that the people affected are able to challenge them and get legal remedies. Legal duties on care providers also play an important part in driving a culture of respect for human rights, helping to avoid breaches happening in the first place.
Charities working in the social care field have long been concerned that not everyone receiving care benefits from this vital source of protection. Certain groups, including those who receive home care services provided by private and third sector organisations under a contract to the local authority and those who arrange and pay for their own care are currently not directly protected under the Human Rights Act.
That is why Age UK, Scope, Mind, the British Institute of Human Rights, the Equality and Diversity Forum and others, welcomed Thursday’s move by the House of Lords to amend the Care Bill, extending the protection of the Human Rights Act to everyone using regulated social care, no matter where that care is provided or who pays for it.
The Human Rights Act is a vital safety net that exists to protect us all from harm. While improved regulation, additional safeguarding legislation and better training can also play an important part in making human rights a reality in the care system, this amendment is a welcome move towards ensuring equal protection for everyone. We hope the Government will now support this amendment as the Care Bill moves through the remaining parliamentary process.