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Advocacy Awareness Week 2022: upholding your human rights

4 November 2022

This Advocacy Awareness Week in England and Wales, we’re going to share some of the ways human rights and advocacy are intertwined.

Right to a family life: Dennis and Nora’s story

Dennis and Nora have been married for over 60 years. They’re very close, and enjoy spending time together. When Dennis developed dementia, Nora cared for him, but as he became more unwell, he needed more support. Their local authority wanted to move him into a care home on his own. They said Nora didn’t need the same level of support, so they couldn’t live together. After so many years together in their own home, this was very distressing for them both.

VoiceAbility Advocate Marianne supported Nora and Dennis to challenge the local authority’s decision about where Dennis should live. Their challenge was successful. The local authority found the couple a care home with a large double room on the ground floor. Dennis got the care he needed, and he and Nora were able to stay living together.

The Human Rights Act says we all have the right a private and family life. This includes where we live and who we live with, and relationships with our family members. Independent advocacy helps people like Dennis and Nora have their rights upheld.

Right to liberty: Ryan’s story

Ryan was admitted and sectioned on a mental health ward during the initial coronavirus pandemic lockdown. As well as his mental health condition, Ryan was HIV positive. 

Due to his HIV positive diagnosis, the hospital ward made the assumption that Ryan was at particular risk of coronavirus due to a heightened risk of coronavirus on the ward generally. As a result, they asked Ryan to remain in his room on the ward and not to access communal areas. He was also refused leave of absence from the ward, solely because of their assumption of risk.

Ryan’s advocate Zaina researched the facts around HIV, coronavirus and risk levels, and was able to identify that he was no higher risk than any other person on the ward. She requested an urgent review. Following the review, Ryan was given the freedom to spend time on the ward, and to take leave of absence - an important step towards his future discharge from hospital.

The Human Rights Act says we all have the right to liberty, and that restrictions placed on us must be the least restrictive option. Independent advocacy helps people like Ryan have their rights upheld.

Right to be safe from inhuman or degrading treatment: Andy’s story

Andy called VoiceAbility because he wanted to complain about his care home. He knew he was being abused by staff, but no one would listen. 

His advocate Marc listened to him. After speaking with Andy and hearing about his situation, Marc raised a safeguarding concern with the local authority. But they didn’t start an inquiry and wouldn’t give a reason. Marc identified that Andy wasn’t the only one at risk. From the lack of action from the local authority, it appeared to Marc that it wasn’t just the staff at the care home who were neglecting the people in their care, but that the local authority was also neglecting its duty. Neglect and abuse can also come from the people in the position of trust at the local authority. 

Because of Marc’s persistence, action is now underway to give Andy the compassionate care he should have received, and to investigate wider problems in the care home.

The Human Rights Act says we all have the right to be safe from inhuman and degrading treatment, including serious harm from a lack of care or support. It also says public services staff have a duty to protect us from harm. Independent advocacy helps people like Andy have their rights upheld.

Right to life: Flora’s story

85-year-old Flora enjoyed living independently. After a hip replacement, the local authority arranged for carers to visit 3 times a day to support her. Although her social worker reported that Flora was very happy with her care, Flora’s family were worried things weren’t right.

When VoiceAbility advocate Rukhsana visited, Flora was tearful and distressed. She told Rukhsana that her carers didn’t heat her meals properly, so they were still frozen in the middle, and that the carers weren’t staying for as long as they were meant to. On another visit, Rukhsana learned that Flora had been left with no breakfast or medication that morning. When Rukhsana called the care agency, they said that Flora’s husband could take care of her that day. But Flora’s husband had died twenty years ago.

Rukhsana arranged a meeting with the care provider and a new social worker. Flora’s needs were changing. She wanted to move somewhere closer to family and not have a confusing mix of people looking after her. As a result of her family and advocacy support, she now has a clear care plan for a new home, near to her son and daughter-in-law, where she’ll have 24-hour care from the same people every day.

The Human Rights Act says we all have the right to life, including protection from neglect and abuse from people who care for you. This means that state bodies like local authorities have duties they have to fulfil about the care we receive. Independent advocacy helps people like Flora have their rights upheld.

What rights does the Human Rights Act give us?

The Human Rights Act empowers people to enforce their rights in practice. 

It enables people to challenge unlawful policies and be treated with dignity by public authorities, and to secure justice for their loved ones. At VoiceAbility, that legal protection of our rights makes a huge difference to the people we work with, and makes it possible for independent advocates to help ensure their rights are uphold and their voices and wishes respected.

These are some of the rights that we all currently have:

  • Right to life
  • Right to be safe from inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Right to liberty
  • Right to respect for private and family life
  • Right to be free from discrimination

These rights are our rights in law, and protect all of us.

At VoiceAbility, we’re concerned about the UK government’s recent plan to replace the Human Rights Act with its own Bill of Rights – often referred to by rights organisations as the #RightsRemovalBill. Justice Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed on 6 November that the Bill will come back in the coming months.

This Advocacy Awareness Week, we’ll share the ways that advocacy and rights are fundamentally connected.

Visit this page for updates. You can also follow us on Twitter - look out for the hashtags #AAW22, #HearMyVoice, #AdvocacyInAction and #HumanRightsAdvocacy.