Care Home Week 18: Human Rights blog from our CEO, Dr Donald Macaskill

I am very pleased to be writing this blog for the second ever Care Home Week. I’ve been asked to write about human rights and admittedly it’s a theme I have commented on not a few times since I took over as Scottish Care CEO in April 2016.

Indeed there has been a lot that’s changed in Scottish Care in that time. Carlyn Miller developed two fantastic human rights conventions alongside people who use services and supports; she also wrote a great report on the implementation of self-directed support using the PANEL human rights model; we’ve had two Care Cameos directly touching on human rights issues – one on dementia and another on social care and human rights in general; and in August we will be publishing a report on human rights and technology in care.

In addition Scottish Care has been delighted to partner the Life Changes Trust in a new grant scheme which has enabled some care homes to access grants to enable them to embed human rights projects. As these start we look forward to being joined in the future by a colleague to further promote the work of human rights in care homes across Scotland.

Outside of Scottish Care the creation and now the implementation of the new National Care Standards is evidence that Human Rights are very much at the heart of the delivery of care home services in Scotland.

So a huge amount has already happened and yet more is still taking place. With all this positive direction, however, I have cause to reflect upon the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission who said after the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights had been developed seventy years ago this year:

“Documents expressing ideals carry no weight unless the people know them, unless the people understand them, unless the people demand that they be lived…”

I suspect that that is where we are at in Scotland in general and in the care home sector in specific at this moment in time. I am convinced that without an extensive national awareness campaign that people who are resident in care homes will remain largely ignorant of their rights and the new rights-based Standards. But it goes even further than awareness raising.

We have absolutely no chance of achieving a truly human rights based system of care and support in Scotland unless we are as a society and as politicians in particular prepared to put a resource behind all the good words and human rights rhetoric. Dynamic change and re-orientation to embed rights demands the acknowledgement that financial resource is needed.

It’s needed so that our fantastic care home staff can become human rights workers in their job of care and support, learning how to balance competing rights, and how to further promote dignity, choice and autonomy in the work they already do.

It’s needed so that we adequately resource, from a human rights perspective, the delivery of increasingly complex and demanding care home services, delivering person led care across the range of conditions and co-morbidities, from dementia to delirium; from multiple sclerosis to muscular dystrophy.

It’s needed so that we properly resource our nursing staff not only so that we have sufficient numbers of them but also that we can re-envision their role at the heart of human rights based clinical care.

Care homes are fantastic places where individuals are able to live their lives to the fullest until their very last breath. From the moment they enter till the moment they leave they have the potential to be supported in a human rights setting – but the reality of that requires a human rights based approach to resourcing and budgeting. It speaks ill of a society where 24/7 nursing care is being delivered at a cost of £4.10 an hour.

Human rights are the life-blood that courses through all care and support in a care home or elsewhere. But just as a human being needs nutrients and energy to maximise potential so too human rights need to be fed, nurtured and resourced. They cannot remain paper based aspirations.

We have come a long way, we have the Conventions, the legislation, the Standards, the policies and the projects. All that remains to paraphrase a fellow human rights contemporary of Eleanor Roosevelt is to ‘give us the tools and we will finish the job.’

Enjoy Care Home Week

Dr Donald Macaskill




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