By Debbie le Quesne

Posts Tagged ‘human rights

Human rights court ruling could raise the bar on dignity

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Stopping night calls to a retired, disabled ballerina was illegal, – or at least initially – according to the European court of human rights.

But the ruling allows our government “wide discretion in balancing the needs of vulnerable individuals with the economic wellbeing of the state,” the Guardian online report says.

The decision could impact significantly the level of support local authorities are required to provide.

The case was brought by stroke victim Elaine McDonald, a former prima ballerina with the Scottish Ballet, against Kensington and Chelsea Council and the UK government.

She has been left with limited mobility and at night she needs to go to the toilet regularly.

In November 2008, the council reduced the amount it was prepared to pay for her care and declined to fund a night-time assistant. They proposed she use incontinence pads.

The provision of night care would cost,

The council argued that the cost of the night service – £22,270 a year – would have to be paid out of the adult social care budget from which all other community care services for adults in the applicant’s borough were funded.

But the Strasbourg court ruled that the UK violated McDonald’s rights between November 2008 and November 2009 because the local council had failed to carry out a full assessment of her care plan.

But here comes the sting in the tail: The British government was ordered to pay €1,000 (£813) in compensation for breaches of article 8 of the European convention of human rights, which guarantees respect for family and private life. She was also awarded €9,500 for expenses and legal costs.

The court added (Guardian report): “From 4 November 2009 onward, there is no doubt that the interference [in her rights] was in accordance with the law [after the care plan was reviewed]. The court accepts that the interference pursued a legitimate aim, namely the economic wellbeing of the state and the interests of the other care users.”

McDonald submitted that if forced to use incontinence pads she would “lose all sense of dignity” and, as a consequence, she would suffer considerable distress.

The local authority said using would ensure the applicant’s safety and provide her with greater privacy and independence in her own home.

It’s a difficult one, this case . . . but undoubtedly a landmark ruling which could effect the decision-making process in many other cases.

Basically it means that if social care services are cut under social services reviews, councils will have to take into account the impact on the dignity of the individuals who will be affected.

And a final thought: How can we fix a cost on the indignity that Elaine McDonald OBE endures in processing her most personal elements of her care though the British legal system.

Human Rights Act now to include care at home

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Those receiving state-funded care in their own homes will now be given additional protection by the Human Rights Act.

Government ministers have agreed to the move following pressure from the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition.

An amendment to the care bill in the Lords will be tabled to make sure the Human Rights Act covers people receiving care in their own home, whether from the state or a private body under contract to the state. However, it will not apply to self-funded, privately provided care.

The announcement, which I applaud, comes after a six-month campaign by pressure groups for elderly people, as well as by the Lib Dems.

Let me quote a national newspaper: “The issue of protecting vulnerable elderly people has been pushed back and forth between the Commons and the Lords, with the Ministry of Justice arguing that previous case law did not mean there was any ambiguity about the extent to which human rights legislation covered state-funded social care.

“There has been cross-party pressure to extend the protection of the act beyond those currently covered – mainly those receiving care in care homes.”

Previous Liberal Democrat care minister, Paul Burstow, led the charge against the Conservative stance, to ensure that people who receive care in their own homes should be covered by the Human Rights Act.

It makes a lot of sense to me . . .Why on earth should people’s rights be lost for having care delivered into their homes!

The change of heart has been welcomed by Age Concern and the Labour Party and no doubt a raft of other organisations too.