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?
The Care Quality Commission recently said that there’s too much “awful care” at the moment. This staggering admission highlights the many thousands of people aren’t even getting the basic care they are entitled to. All the 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.
When we think about human rights, it’s easy to conjure up images of people living in other countries under dictators or in conditions of war. Human Rights Day is a reminder that human rights are at work in the UK, every day, quietly and close to home.