Human rights can provide people with a way to challenge degrading or abusive treatment and provide a framework for compassionate and dignified care. This week we have launched a new campaign film to get people talking about human rights for older people.
Sadly it’s a fact that increasing numbers of older people are reporting physical abuse and neglect; ill treatment that is happening at the hands of the people who are supposed to care for them. Last year the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reported a 20% rise in allegations of abuse, with more than a third of those cases taking place in care homes.
Following concerned families and journalists using hidden cameras in care homes we are hearing more stories about poor treatment, neglect and abuse. Last year the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Behind closed doors’ gave us vivid and shocking insights into life in a care home. The footage of abuse led to a revisit by Care Quality Commission inspectors, who had given the home a clean bill of health even while the cameras were secretly recording abuse and neglect.
As many of you will know, last year Age UK successfully campaigned to extend human rights protection for people when they are being looked after in residential care, which has been arranged or paid for by the local authority.
But there is still work to do. People in care and their families need to know what their rights are, and providers of care need to ensure no one is abused or neglected. On Wednesday we launched a new film to get people talking about human rights for older people. The film tells the story of Charles, who lives in residential care. He is ignored, dressed in someone else’s clothes and staff don’t even know his name. On its own each incident seems trivial. But put together, and experienced day in and day out, they add up to a story of neglect and a failure to respect the dignity of an individual older person.
When we’re taken at speed and in reverse through Charles’ life we see him losing his wife, becoming a grandparent and parent, running a marathon, working as a postman, being a child; and the rich fullness of his life is revealed to us, the person he was and still is.
We see the details which connect us, and this makes the link to universal human rights, which are an important safety net at any age or life stage. Rights which are vital to us all.
We know that most people who live in residential care homes have a good experience, but ‘Charles’’ story will be familiar to too many people. There are lots of examples of people using human rights protections to challenge the way they are treated when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Everyone should be able to get compassionate care which respects their human rights. We all deserve to be cared for by people who know our name and who help us to thrive. That’s why we need to talk about human rights for older people, and why we’re asking people to share this film.