Category Archives: Equality and Human Rights

A denial of dignity

Older woman with carer

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

Older People’s Human Rights on the agenda at national and global level

At this year’s political party conferences the future of the Human Rights Act (HRA) was a hot topic, with the Conservative Party announcing a manifesto commitment to scrap the HRA and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, while the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party vowed to staunchly defend the status quo.

This debate, which is set to intensify between now and the next general election, tends to focus on a narrow range of human rights issues, namely how the HRA affects groups such as immigrants and prisoners.   What usually gets lost in this debate is the crucial role that human rights can play in the everyday lives of those whose rights are at risk in very different contexts, such as vulnerable older people receiving health or social care.

Last week the Equality and Human Rights Commission published the latest in a series of reports about the human rights of older people who receive care at home. It highlights that funding pressures which result in brief care visits have a devastating effect on both the older people relying on these services as well as the staff forced to choose between rushing visits, leaving early without finishing tasks or running late between clients. For local authorities to meet their human rights obligations and for older people to be assured of dignified and respectful care, the rates paid to care providers must cover the cost of care. Continue reading