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Human Rights in Health and Social Care

Human Rights apply to everyone. Human Rights Day is celebrated on 10 December and Sandra Rafferty, from the Equality Unit, Business Service Organisation, explains what Human Rights are all about and what they mean within Health and Social Care services here in Northern Ireland.

“You may have heard of the term FREDA relating to Human Rights. This stands for Fairness, Respect, Equality, Dignity and Autonomy.

Public authorities, including Health and Social Care organisations, must think about Human Rights when they deliver services to the public.

Health and Social Care organisations in Northern Ireland train their staff on equality and human rights, to highlight how they can make a difference by ensuring everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

Human Rights can sound very complicated, but really it means putting people first.

What do Human Rights mean in Health and Social Care?

Human Rights that may come into play in a Health and Social Care setting include:

  • article 2 – the right to life
  • article 3 – the right to freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
  • article 5 - the right to liberty and
  • article 8 - the right to respect for private and family life

Here’s a few examples:

It involves a care home that had been providing a larger resident with a ‘strip’ wash so that staff did not have to lift her. The woman was very upset as she had not showered or bathed for many weeks. Her advocate challenged this as a breach of her Article 3 Right not to be treated in an inhuman or degrading way. The care home staff took on board consideration of human rights and agreed that a hoist could be used so that the woman was able to take a bath or shower according to her wishes.

A learning disabled couple were living in a residential assessment centre so their parenting skills could be assessed by the local social services department. CCTV cameras were installed including in their bedroom, even though the baby slept in a separate room. The couple challenged this under Article 8 Right to respect for private and family life. As a result the social services team agreed to switch off the cameras during the night so that the couple could have privacy in the evenings.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has published a short video to explain why Human Rights are so important and how they protect us in our day-to-day lives.


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