People have lots of ideas about the Human Rights Act (HRA) many of them incorrect: a disability commission recently revealed that in their survey, 70% of respondents could not name even one of their human rights! Due to recent ponderings on Talking Point re the relevance of the Human Rights Act to our client group I decided to post something that may clarify some of the issues.

One of the main reasons the HRA is not helpful to people with dementia and their carers is because generally speaking it ought to be the person who has had their rights violated who should take the case. People in mid to late stage dementia would possibly struggle to put such a case together and carers are often too exhausted to even contemplate such a move. Secondly, the HRA only covers public bodies such as the NHS and local authorities. Most of the people in the community that I talk to are interested in using the HRA with regard to practices in care homes. In fact they are on to a non starter as private homes will not be covered by the Act.

If you are thinking 'Surely this is against my/his/her human rights?' consider which article of the Act has been violated. Is it for example, the 'Right to Respect for a Private and Family Life' or 'Right to Free Association' or 'Right to Liberty and Security' ?

There are HRA cases that relate to people with dementia, most promiently the Bournewood case where a man with learning disability was 'detained' in hospital as a voluntary patient instead of being sectioned. Other cases that could be relevant involve insufficient record keeping regarding important care decisions, lifting and handling, and gay and lesbian rights such as the right to be named on the nearest relative list within the Mental Health Act, the right to be named as a hereditary tennant on a rental agreement.

Regards,
Sally