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Protecting human rights in care settings – NCF response

Vic Rayner, CEO, National Care Forum

The National Care Forum – the leading association for not for profit care and support providers – welcomes the publication of the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report on protecting human rights in care settings. The report makes a number of important recommendations, including:

  • Calling on the government to introduce legislation to secure the right for care users to nominate one or more individuals to visit and provide care and support.
  • Calling on the government to consult on extending the protections of the Human Rights Act to ensure they apply to all those accessing care in regulated settings – not only when the care is local authority funded or arranged.
  • To strengthen, clarify and streamline complaints mechanisms that relate to care settings.
  • Strengthening of involvement of care users and their relatives and representatives, and other measures, to prevent the inappropriate use of DNACPR notices.
  • Specific training on human rights for staff
  • Ensure that providers understand responsibilities under Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) and that the government commits to a full timetable for the implementation of its replacement, Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS)

In our evidence to the committee’s inquiry, we highlighted the need for a human rights approach in guidance issued by government and in practice in care settings. We drew particular attention to our advocacy work, and that of our members, from the beginning of the pandemic in challenging inappropriate DNACPR notices, campaigning for equitable access to PPE, testing and support for care workers, visitors and users of care where appropriate, and working with relatives and residents’ organisations to enable visiting as default as well as the promotion of wider human rights in practice.

Our submission also focused on the need to strike the right balance between competing rights, such as between an individual and the rights of the collective group living and working in a care service during the pandemic. The balance of harms between the risk of COVID-19 and the risk of harm from loneliness and disconnection was a difficult one and a balance was not properly struck during the pandemic, with government and public health guidance making it very difficult for providers, people and families.

Professor Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the NCF said:

“The NCF has taken a consistent, balanced and active role in advocating for the response to COVID-19, be that policymaking, guidance or implementation, to take full account of people’s human rights. We worked with resident and relative organisations, care providers, public health teams and DHSC from the beginning of the pandemic to safeguard human rights.

“As we move out of the pandemic, various reports are showing the impact of what a lack of a human rights approach has on individuals using social care. Human rights in care settings are a reflection of the way in which wider society values vulnerable people. It is important that the government has a much broader consideration of the human rights approach in social care and beyond. This is all the more important in light of the government’s intention to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights – we need to ensure the rights of people accessing care or working in it, are protected.”

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