To celebrate Carers Week, Amina Hussain, Policy Intern at BIHR, reflects on the value of carers knowing about human rights
The 10-16 June 2013 marks “Carers Week”, a UK wide awareness campaign seeking to improve the lives of carers and those for whom they care. This year’s theme is “Prepared to Care”, recognising that at least 6,000 people start becoming carers each day. Often, discussions about carers centre on their “needs”; here at BIHR we think it is also important to remember the rights carers and those they care for have under the Human Rights Act 1998.
At BIHR our mission is to bring rights to life in practical ways, showing that human rights can be useful tools outside of the court room to help improve people’s everyday lives. We produce a variety of materials and guides for people, including a “Pocket Guide for Carers” providing a plain English explanation of human rights and how carers can stand up for their rights and the rights of their loved ones. Based on well-known principles like dignity, respect and fairness, human rights give meaning to the these values with the added back-up of being set down in law, and can make a positive difference to the daily lives of both the carer and their loved one.
“If I had known to quote more of these human rights I may have changed people’s minds”(Carer)
Part of “Prepared to Care” is to help carers identify and access relevant support; we believe this should include practical and relevant information about human rights. A survey conducted by n-compass (an advocacy service based in North-West England) indicated that 45% of respondents felt that human rights were very important to their caring role, but less than 30% felt confident about what these included. Following this, BIHR, as part of our Human Rights in the Community project, delivered training to a group of these carers. They told us human rights are important to their caring role, but there is a lack of accessible information to help them understand how human rights can help in everyday ways.
To help fill this gap, BIHR’s Pocket Guide for Carers sets out what human rights and which rights carers may find important within their role. For example, the right to respect for private and family home can be particularly important, protecting a wider range of interests than its name suggests. Whilst this right does cover personal privacy it can also assist in being able to maintain and establish relationships with others, accessing medical treatment, respecting confidentiality and respecting the right to make choices about things which affect us. The right to respect for private and family life may also be useful for carers when negotiating care arrangements and respite care, which is something our Pocket Guide explains.
“Yes, there are issues around equality and rights which at first carers don’t think relate to them but this guide helps to show them that they do! We have found the booklet to be very popular amongst unpaid carers and had to get more copies to distribute!” (Local Carers Forum)
Importantly, the Guide provides case studies which show how human rights work in practice. Carers have told us this is a helpful way to build confidence and take human rights off the pages and into the real life situations they face in their role.
“The case studies were illuminating to say the least! They will give other carers the tools to fight their corner in a crisis and that’s invaluable!” (A carer)
Carers Week helps celebrate the invaluable contribution carers make not only to their loved ones lives, but to society as a whole. We think part of this should be to celebrate and embrace the human rights of carers and ensure they too are provided with the support they are entitled to.
“As an advocate the information in the Guide is really useful to support carers with issues they may have which gives them examples of how human rights may be breached.” (Advocate from a local service)
“If you would like a copy of our Pocket Guide for Carers please contact BIHR on 020 7882 5850 or send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or download your copy here. We’d also love to hear your feedback on the Guide, to help us improve the next edition. You can email us or complete this short feedback form:
Note: the images in this blog were taken as part of BIHR’s Human Rights in the Community Project. The people in the images are not necessarily carers.