Human Rights – Everyone has them!
Human rights incorporate the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every single person in the world.
The Human Rights Act sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to.
It protects us in our daily lives, regardless of who we are, where we live or how we choose to live our lives. It provides everyone with dignity too, including some of the most vulnerable people in our society who sometimes feel their voice is not heard, or they feel they’ve lost their voice.
The Human Rights Act – What is it?
The Human Rights Act is a piece of legislation that protects everyone so that they are treated equally, with fairness, dignity and respect.
It specifically covers 16 rights that belong to everyone, and each one is important.
When supporting people through Advocacy, we see some of the principles of the Human Rights Act more than others, and these include:
The right to life: Nobody has a right to end your life.
- The right to liberty: Your freedom and liberty are protected, unless in accordance with the law.
- The right to not be discriminated against: This includes your sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
- The right to respect for private and family life: You have a right to live your life with privacy, without interference, and to maintain family relationships.
- The right to be free from inhumane or degrading treatment: This doesn’t have to be deliberate or inflicted on purpose, but safeguards the individual from abuse.
How is Advocacy linked to Human Rights?
Sometimes, people don’t have the confidence or skills to say what they want, need or what matters to them. Other times, decisions are made for people by professionals supporting them, instead of decisions being made with the person.
This is where Advocacy can help!
- Advocates can support people to have their views, wishes and feelings heard and genuinely considered. This enables a person to be as fully involved with decision-making about their care, support and treatment as possible.
- Advocates can support people to understand their human rights and how they are protected.
- Advocates can also challenge others if they believe that a person’s human rights are not being upheld.
- Advocates embed human rights knowledge and legislation into their practice every day. They know how important it is that human rights are upheld and considered when making decisions about the care, treatment and support that people receive.
How does it work in Advocacy practice?
A person-centered approach is at the heart of the support an advocate delivers – because - after all, we are all diverse and make different choices about what is important to us!
Advocates are also independent of all other services and are there for the person, without judgement or assumption – and this is key!
Decisions and issues advocates support people with vary from big to small. Regardless of this, a person’s human rights must be upheld.
- Querying access to activities that a person wants to be involved in,
- Supporting a person to access a specific diet
- Challenging when a person may not be supported to have access to a loved one
- Supporting a person to request and have accessible information, to make sure they understand their rights
- Supporting a person to voice what is important to them when considering accommodation options
- Challenging access to medical treatment, where it may have been denied
- Querying if options considered for a person are the least restrictive
After all, decisions should be made with people, not for them, when considering issues and decisions made about their daily lives and choices.
Examples of Advocacy support and consideration of Human Rights
Below are a couple of examples where advocates have used the Human Rights Act to support people to have their human rights upheld and where advocacy intervention has enabled a person to have a more dignified life with their own choices.
Una was referred to Cloverleaf while in the hospital following multiple falls in her home. Professionals believed it was too unsafe for her to return home as Una had no family or friends to support her. A decision had to be made about where she would move to upon discharge from the hospital.
An Independent Mental Capacity Advocate, Matilda, was asked to Advocate for Una through the decision-making process. Una’s Social Worker informed Matilda and Una that she was looking at multiple care homes that may be suitable for Una to move into.
When meeting Una, Matilda found Una to be very upset. Una told Matilda that she didn’t want to move into a care home and that she wanted to return home. Una believed that if she had some support, she would be fine going home, but her Social Worker was worried she wouldn’t be able to cope and would fall again.
Matilda was able to feed back on how Una felt to her Social Worker, who was making the decision about Una’s long-term accommodation. With this, Matilda queried whether the Social Worker had considered Una returning home with a care package, as the least restrictive option. She also communicated that these were Una’s wishes and feelings concerning the decision and how important it was for her to go home.
The Social Worker took this into consideration when making her decision and felt that as this was the least restrictive option, that a package of care could be put in place to support Una and that Una could return home upon discharge from the hospital.
Steven recently moved to a care home. Professionals didn’t know a lot about Steven's history as he lived a very private life and kept himself to himself.
Steven was appointed a Relevant Persons Representative (RPR), Tony, who visited him frequently. With time, Steven built trust and confidence in Tony to speak to him more openly. Steven told Tony that his faith was integral to his life, and how much he missed having access to his faith. Tony asked if the staff at the care home knew this and Steven explained that he was too worried to ask the care home to facilitate visits to mass as “everyone’s so busy, and they’re trying their best”.
Tony reassured Steven that if his faith was important to him, he should be supported to have access to it. Tony asked Steven if he felt comfortable with Tony raising this with the manager of the home, which Steven agreed to.
When Tony raised the issue with the manager, the manager was hesitant about what support could be offered for Steven to attend mass as the closest service was over half an hour away but said she would look into it further. Tony confirmed that access to his faith was really important to Tony, and the care home had a duty to support his access to this.
Tony revisited Steven a few weeks later and asked him how he was getting on. Steven couldn’t have been happier! He thanked Tony for raising his query with the manager and told Tony he is now attending mass every week and was gifted some literature relating to his faith by a member of staff.