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New inquiry: Protecting Human Rights in Care Settings

21 September 2021

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched a new inquiry to investigate whether the human rights of residents and their families are respected in care homes in England.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Joint Committee on Human Rights reported on the detention of young people with disabilities or autism and we called for further action to end blanket bans on visiting people in residential care homes, including a statutory right to an individualised risk assessment before any restrictions on visiting are imposed.

However, human rights concerns extend beyond those which came to the fore during the pandemic. There are also ongoing concerns about the application of Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation notices, poor use of treatment escalation plans, over-medication, and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.

The new inquiry will examine how the human rights of those accessing social care are currently undermined or put at risk, and what can be done to enhance legal protections. It will examine how well care providers ensure the human rights of the people under their care and how regulators ensure high standards in the sector. The inquiry will cover the broad range of social care services including support for older people and people with long-term medical or mental health disabilities.

Chair's comment

Launching the inquiry, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP said:

“Just because you are in residential care, it doesn’t mean that your family are no longer important. The right to family life is vital for people in residential care. People in care settings are some of the most vulnerable in society and it is vital that their right not to be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment is protected.

Unprecedented restrictions on people’s rights have been necessary because of the threat of Covid. The Government have a duty to protect the right to life. But to comply with the obligations to respect human rights any restriction must only be imposed if it’s absolutely necessary and proportionate to the threat.”

Terms of reference

The Joint Committee invites written submissions on the following questions:

  • What human rights issues need to be addressed in care settings in England, beyond the immediate concerns arising from the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • How effective are providers at respecting the human rights of people under their care?
  • How effective are regulators in protecting residents from human rights breaches and in supporting patients and residents who make complaints about their care provider?
  • What lessons need to be learned from the pandemic to prevent breaches of human rights legislation in future?

The deadline for submissions is 1 November 2021.

Further information

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