Carer’s Week 2013: Preparing to Care, Knowing Your Human Rights

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.

AtArticle 1 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)

ImportantlCarers Guidey, 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 programmes@bihr.org.uk 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.

MPs raise concerns about new migration rules dividing children and families

BIHR’s policy intern share his views on a new report into family migration rules

 

Today in Parliament a group of MPs launched a report, drawing attention to the anguish of families divided by family migration rules put in place by the Government almost one year ago.

 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration, set up to “support the emergence of mainstream, progressive policy debate on migration in the UK parliament” undertook an inquiry to look at the impact of a number of changes to the migration rules made in July 2012. One major change was the introduction of a specific income threshold that the partner in the UK (“the Sponsor”) must meet for their overseas partner (“the Applicant”) to be allowed to enter the UK on the basis of this relationship. The new rules impose a ‘financial requirement’ that says that the Sponsor must have a yearly income of at least £18,600 for their partner to be allowed to join them in the UK. This is the figure when there is only one Applicant, such as a spouse, it increases if there are more applicants, including children also wish to enter the UK with their parent. Changes to the rules were also made which affect the elderly dependants or parents who live abroad being able to join their children or other relatives in the UK.

 

The APPG inquiry arose out of widespread concern, including across the parties in Parliament, about the impact of the new rules on peoples’ family lives and that the changes were leading to family members “being unnecessarily and unfairly separated from one another”. The APPG asked for contributions from civil society, NGOs, immigration lawyers and the general public. Almost 300 responses were received and the APPG said it was “impressed by both the amount of evidence received and its weight”.

 

The APPG found that there “is a strong case for these rules to be reviewed” and that British families are being unnecessarily divided by these changes, with British children having to live without their parents.  The APPG also says that costs to the public purse are being incurred in ways that perhaps the government did not anticipate, as families are forced to be brought up as single-parent families reliant on state benefits and paying no taxes. If the parent who is abroad was allowed to enter the UK, they would be able to work and contribute to society or they could look after the children awhile the British partner worked. In either case, the burden on state resources would decrease and in fact the family would become tax-payers in the UK.

 

The APPG report also suggests that the elderly “dependent relative route appears to have all but closed”, with the effect that British people wishing to look after parents or other relatives are not allowed to do so by law. This leads to economically active individuals with family lives and careers in the UK being forced to move abroad so that they can look after their elderly parents there. The APPG says this may be “unnecessarily prohibitive and likely to have negative impacts” on the UK’s future by forcing economically active individuals to leave the UK and settle elsewhere. The APPG also received evidence about the UK’s new family migration rules being the toughest in Europe, with only Norway having a higher income threshold, and that EEA nationals can bring their non-EEA family into the UK more easily than UKL nationals can.

 

The APPG report also mentions the impact of the new family migration rules on children and how the government seems to have not given this aspect of the rules much attention at all. At the launch of the event, MP Sarah Teather, former Minister of State for Children and Families, said she was disappointed with this and that it seemed “silly” that other departments of the government should be working so hard to improve children’s welfare in the UK when children were ignored in immigration law in a way that directly contradicted the work that other departments were trying to do for children. It has been widely accepted that the first few months of a child’s life are crucial and this is the time children bond with their parents, so it seemed particularly strange that the government’s immigration policy was such that children were separated from parents particularly in the first few months or years of their lives.

 

It appears that the new family migration rules have a range of effects on families which have not been considered sufficiently. Indeed, the impacts seem to be particularly at odds with the Government’s aim, in other areas, to prioritise family life, as encompassed by the Prime Minister when he said “If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keeps people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.” (15 August 2011).

 

The Human Rights Act means that the Government (and its agencies) must consider human rights, such as the right to respect for family life, in all aspects of law. This does not prevent the Government from having rules about migration, nor does it create a right for non-citizens to automatically be allowed to live in the UK. Rather, human rights provides a rule book for such decisions, and in particular human rights mean that the impact of decisions on people need to be considered and must be proportionate. However, as the APPG report reveals there are some very real worries that the new family migration rules may not be proportionate, having disproportionate and unintended impacts.

 

Attendees at the APPG event were hopeful that the report offers an opportunity to raise awareness about the family migration rule changes and their impacts, and the Government will be persuaded to review the situation.