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

Calling on the Government to protect older people’s human rights

Age UK handing in a petition to the Department of HealthYesterday morning, Age UK handed its petition into the Department of Health, calling on the Government to close a loophole that means some older people receiving care are not directly covered by the Human Rights Act because of the way their care is arranged and paid for.

It’s an absurd situation. Two people living in the same care home could have different rights and protections because of this loophole. That means that when abuse and neglect takes place, some people have fewer options for redress. We think this is wrong.

Continue reading “Calling on the Government to protect older people’s human rights”

Save Clause 48

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Imagine two people who live next to each other in a care home – one pays for their own care, the other’s is arranged by their council. Did you know that only one of these people has the full protection of the law from abuse and neglect?

It seems absurd but a loophole in human rights law means this is true. Currently, only those who have their residential care arranged by a public body are directly covered by the Human Rights Act. Anyone who pays for their own residential care or receives care in their own home has fewer rights and protections. Age UK thinks this is wrong.

One of the most exciting things that happened when the House of Lords debated the Care Bill was an amendment that sought to close this loophole. It was voting through, defeating the Government. This amendment became Clause 48 of the Care Bill, giving equal protection to everyone receiving care under human rights law. Continue reading “Save Clause 48”

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 “Equal access to services”

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

Care Bill: How the Human Rights Act can provide a safety net

Winterbourne View, Operation Jasmine, the EHRC’s Close to Home report and the harrowing story of Gloria Foster are all recent examples, and there are many more, of how the human rights of those receiving care have been breached. One would assume that protecting someone from abuse, neglect or undignified treatment would be the first priority of those providing care, however, in some cases it is clear that it is not so.

440x210_care_homeIn this context it is vital that the law acts to protect who are vulnerable to human rights abuses. The Human Rights Act 1998 states that ‘It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.’ Simply put, this means that public bodies have a duty to respect and protect people’s human rights to fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy.  Where they fail in this regard they can be challenged in the courts.

Age UK has long been concerned that not all older people receiving care benefit from this vital source of protection. Certain groups of older people including those who receive home care services provided by private and third sector organisations under a contract to the local authority and those who arrange and pay for their own care are currently not directly protected under the Human Rights Act. Continue reading “Care Bill: How the Human Rights Act can provide a safety net”