Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The UK EHRC does not know the meaning of human rights

A report has been published this morning concerning the quality of personal care for the elderly in England and Wales. It sets out findings that suggest that about 50% of those it quizzed are receiving a quality of care that is unacceptable. That, of course, is extremely unfortunate. However there are several features of this report which render its findings questionable at best and useless at worst.

The first is the author of the report is the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This is a statutory body that "promote[s] and monitor[s] human rights and.. protect[s] enforce[s] and promote[s] equality across the nine "protected" grounds- age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.". The leader of this body is Trevor Phillips OBE, who has had a controversial record. Indeed six members of the commission have left after a series of disputes with the now part time chairman of the commission. Others are said to be considering their position.

It is not a body that has specific skills that could allow it to undertake a specialist investigation of the realities  of care for the elderly. Indeed it even undermines the quality of its own conclusions by suggesting that the problems that they identify could be much worse, because some might be "too frightened to complain". The alternative, that those who are complaining the loudest may be exaggerating the position is not considered. So the only valid conclusion of this extremely expensive report is that there may be problems in the provision of personal care services to the elderly, but that the scale of this problem is not quantified.

What bothers me the most is not that problems have been identified- I doubt that there is any aspect of the provision of public care- or private, for that matter- that could be above criticism. No, my beef is that the EHRC suggests that this problem is a human rights problem, and that the solution is- surprise surprise- to bring the provision of personal care under the control of human rights legislation. So a "human rights" quango wants to expand its remit, well pardon my cynicism, but "they would, wouldn't they?".

Personally I feel that this report like so much of the "human rights" industry of special pleading in the UK actually degrades the idea of the fundamental nature of human rights. The fundamental rights enshrined under the universal declaration of human rights have been ignored by the UK, but not in the way that the country provides care to its elderly citizens. The use of torture and violence by British forces in Iraq, for example, is well documented- and it is to our thorough discredit. To try to put the patterns of behaviour which the commission says it identifies in certain aspects of treatment of the elderly on the same level as torture is totally inappropriate.

There may be a problem with personal care with the elderly being inadequate. It would not be a good thing if this was so. The remedy is to improve management and reporting and probably funding in the areas where a need for such change is found. The remedy is not to submit to the special pleading of a self appointed human rights industry that can not tell the difference between real human rights abuse and the poor delivery of services.

Since the EHRC can not tell the difference, it is hard to understand why the UK government should continue to fund such a patently useless organisation.


Anonymous said...

What utter nonsense you've just written - if frail elderly care home residents of institutions which are supposed to care for their needs are left to decompose in their own urine and vomit or physicially malhandled by their carers isn't that also 'degrading and inhuman treatment.'

The rights to life, liberty, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, and the rights to family life and privacy are all protected rights under european and domestic human rights law and quite rightly so - if any of your close relatives (eg parents and grandparents) had sufferred the sort of treatment that the EHRC has highighted, then I expect you would agree that their basic human rights would have been violeted.

Anonymous said...

Ps - I really do think you should reconsider this. Usually your blog and posts are full of good insights and analysis. But I think you might be out of depth here - I note your profile says you are investment banker which of course qualifies you to wax lyrical about the human rights and the tryanny of human rights advocates.

The job of EHRC is to shine a light on those 'dark places' of our human endevours where humanity gets neglected - if EHRC become unpopular with Government and the daily mail it rather suggests they are doing something right, making people feel uncomfortable by challenging unacceptable things that we are turning a blind eye to.

Cicero said...

With due respect Anon,I think it is a pretty poor show that we are being asked to accept uncritically a report that is mostly waffle with a few headline grabbing but largely unsubstantiated allegations.

Of course I do not think that poor quality of care of the elderly is justifiable. If improvements are needed, of course they must be made- as I say in the piece. However I think this is a sensationalist report with an agenda that is separate from that of improving the welfare of the elderly and more to do with EHRC Empire building. The evidence that they cite is anecdotal and generally too vague to provide a real framework for effective decision making and resource allocation.

So I deplore several things- 1) that the administration of the system of personal care for the elderly seems to need some serious work. 2) that some unrelated Quango thinks that such alleged lapses count as the moral equal of torture and therefore falls into their overly broad remit will do anything but impede any attempt to investigate and repair the situation.

This report is shrill and alarmist and it serves a highly political agenda- not a genuine human rights agenda at all. That politicization, I repeat, undermines the very real challenges to Human Rights elsewhere across the UK.

As for your crack about bankers, well that- I hope you concede- is a bit cheap, apart from anything else, I have been involved in various Human Rights issues since my school days.

Well paid quango-crats seeking to highlight an alleged problem, to which by improbable co-incidence, they are the happy solution makes me want to reach for my revolver.