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Human rights project

As we age, we're still entitled to the same human rights that we were born with. The topic of human rights can sometimes sound abstract or academic, but every day we encounter situations that relate to our human rights.

For example, a hospital patient who has a do-not-resuscitate order put on their file without consultation should be able to assert their right to life. A care home resident who is left without food or drink for a long time should be able to assert their right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment. An older LGBT+ person who is told their support worker cannot support them to attend an LGBT+ pride event can assert their right to a private life. The topic of human rights is wide ranging, and touches upon all our lives.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of protecting the human rights of older people. In 2020 our colleagues at Age UK completed a report into the impact of the pandemic on older people: including the use of ‘blanket’ policies in healthcare; barriers to accessing shopping, medicine, banking, and other necessary services; and an increased risk of domestic abuse. These concerns were echoed in our own lockdown surveys.

In 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which set out to protect the rights and freedoms of all people. In 1991 the UN also adopted further specific principles about the human rights of older people, organised around the themes of independence, participation, care, self-fulfilment, and dignity. Local authorities, the Older People’s Commissioner For Wales, and other service providers are all obliged to have due regard to these principles. The Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010, and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 all overlap to protect the human rights of older people in Wales.

Age Cymru has been funded by the Welsh Government to raise awareness of human rights, and to engage with older people across Wales to embed the message that older people are citizens and participants in society, who should expect to have their human rights upheld.

We're currently working to produce a short film featuring older people talking about human rights in their own words. We're supported in this by Professor John Williams, who is an international expert on human rights and the chair of the Age Cymru trustees. We'll also be producing a toolkit to help older people and their advocates to start conversations about their rights in relation to health, social care, and housing. When it's safe to do so, we plan to meet with communities across Wales to talk about the human rights of older people.

We're really excited about having these vital conversations. If you'd like to get in touch with us about this work, please email HumanRights@agecymru.org.uk

In the meantime, Social Care Wales has released some guidance for service providers on meeting older people’s rights to care and support, Making Rights Work For Older People. This document is available in Welsh, English, and BSL. There is also guidance on understanding your rights as an older person, which includes case studies.

If you want to speak to someone about your human rights, you can call our Age Cymru advice line. You can speak in Welsh or English, call us on 0300 303 44 98 charged at local rate (open between 9:00am and 4:00pm, Monday - Friday). Email us at advice@agecymru.org.uk.

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