Category Archives: Equality and Human Rights

A relative in need brings home the importance of human rights

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To mark  Human Rights Day, Nicky Hawkins, Communications Director for Equally Ours – a campaign set up by eight national (including Age UK) charities to talk about the importance of human rights and how they benefit us all in everyday life, has contributed a guest post. 

It’s Human Rights Day today. Many reading this will wonder what this really means. Another day, another cause or issue to be championed or concerned about – why are human rights any different?

Despite working on human rights every day, it wasn’t until my mum had a spell in hospital that I felt like I had an answer to that question. She’s being cared for mainly at home now and her hospital stay was mercifully brief. But 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 was 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, a disabled woman who used human rights laws says “it 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? Continue reading

A denial of dignity

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The European Court has ruled on a challenge brought by Elaine McDonald, a user of social care services in Kensington and Chelsea, regarding reductions to her care package which amounted to a denial of dignity. This ruling is the final stage in a series of cases that have included the UK Appeal Court and Supreme Court. Age UK intervened in the Supreme Court case.

At the heart of the dispute is the issue of whether someone who is not incontinent should be expected to wear incontinence pads rather than being assisted to use the toilet at night. Ms McDonald has argued that being required to do this is a breach of her human rights.

UK courts, including the Supreme Court, accepted that Kensington and Chelsea’s decision to remove night time care was unlawful in English law as it was implemented without carrying out a proper reassessment of need. However UK courts have not accepted that this involved a breach of human rights, or that the council acted unlawfully in withdrawing care once (a year after the initial decision) it finally completed an assessment. Continue reading

Campaign win: Government moves to protect older people’s human rights

Last week the Care Bill received royal assent. Let’s mark the occasion by reflecting on the successes that we have achieved, the changes to the social care system and the measures that will help older people with care needs to live with dignity.

One of the changes that is particularly positive was only agreed in the very final
stages of the parliamentary process. During the exciting-sounding ‘ping pong’ where the two Houses are required to agree each other’s changes to the Bill, a
Government amendment was accepted that closes a loophole in human rights law; a change that Age UK has campaigned for a number of years.

Currently, whether you are covered by the Human Rights Act when receiving care services depends on what that service is, how it is funded and who arranges it. Publicly funded or arranged residential care is covered. Privately arranged
and funded residential care is not. That means two people living in the same care home could have different levels of protection under the law. When it comes to domiciliary care, there is no direct coverage at all. This means that human rights abuses could be taking place with no option for redress. Continue reading

Equal access to services

Unlikely as it sounds, a recent 153 page legal decision about VAT returns could  prove to be a turning point in the campaign to get recognition of the needs of many older people when it comes to using online services.

In what’s being hailed as a significant  and closely watched decision,  a judge has upheld the right of three small business owners not to file their VAT returns on line. Two of those who brought the court case have disabilities. The other lives in a remote part of the country without reliable broadband access.200x160_hand-uses-mouse

In her ruling, the judge said it is a breach of the human rights act to require VAT forms to be filed online without exemption for older people, those with disabilities or who live in isolated parts of the country.

For Age UK, the decision is very welcome. Equal access to services not just for older people but everyone, has long been one of our core campaigning goals. Continue reading