Report published on human rights in care settings

July 22, 2022

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has warned that gaps remain in how vulnerable people are protected in care settings, leaving their human rights at risk of being breached.

A report published this week finds that mechanisms such as Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation notices and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are often not applied correctly, meaning treatment can be wrongfully withheld or an individual’s liberty infringed. It calls on the Government to work with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to ensure there is stringent oversight of how care providers implement safeguards designed to protect the human rights of care users.

The report also raises concerns about the slow progress in securing visitation rights for care users. It warns that continued blanket restrictions are a needless risk to the mental and physical wellbeing of care users. It calls on the Government to establish a legal right for care users to nominate individuals for visiting rights. It also calls on the CQC to play a greater role in ensuring care providers are not needlessly blocking care users from seeing loved ones.

The Joint Committee finds that there is currently an imbalance in how human rights are protected in care settings. Where care is publicly funded or arranged, the Human Rights Act can be used directly to uphold the rights of care users, but that is not necessarily the case where care is privately funded. This means that individuals in the same care setting might have different human rights protections. It calls on the Government to consult on whether the protections of the Human Rights Act should be extended to those receiving care and support from all regulated providers.

The Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) welcomes the publication of a Parliamentary report recommending key changes to law and practice to ensure the rights of people using care services. The charity says the report highlights the lack of action to protect the rights of older people placed in the most vulnerable of situations.

The report highlights many concerns R&RA raised in its oral and written evidence to the inquiry and the Committee’s recommendations mirror many of our calls, including:

  • The Care Quality Commission (CQC) must adequately monitor providers’ compliance with expected standards and hold them to account – the JCHR noted the lack of trust in the regulator.
  • The introduction of a new right to nominate one or more relative/friend to visit and provide support in all circumstances.
  • The CQC must monitor compliance with visiting restrictions.
  • Specific training on human rights for all care staff, on the law and how it can be used in practice to improve care and treatment.
  • Complaints mechanisms must be streamlined and CQC must act to ensure care users do not face retaliation if they complain.
  • Extending the duties under the Human Rights Act to all providers of care, regardless of how care is funded.

The JCHR report follows the introduction of the Bill of Rights Bill to Parliament, which seeks to repeal the Human Rights Act and weaken human rights protections.

Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association said, ‘The Committee’s report is a damning indictment of the failure to protect people placed in the most vulnerable of situations. From the lack of action of the regulator to the lack of training for care staff, older people are being left at risk of having their fundamental rights breached. Our helpline hears from people using care and their families who feel powerless and voiceless. Rather than seeking to weaken human rights laws, the Government must urgently act to redress the power imbalance in care and ensure older people are treated with dignity and respect.’

Visit the Parliament UK website to read the report analysis.

In other news, the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) warns that pressures on essential social care will continue to mount if the workforce is not given parity in pay.

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