On the 10th December which is the annual Human Rights Day there is reason for multiple celebration. That date is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Scottish Human Rights Commission. As part of attempts to raise awareness of the significance of these events and the priority of human rights have in Scottish society a social media campaign has been launched with the hashtag – #AllOurRights10. 

Starting today (30 November) the Scottish Human Rights Commission will be releasing one short digital film per day, sharing ten different stories of people working to protect and promote human rights in their own community or context. They are all about highlighting the value and relevance of human rights in people’s lives.

Today is Carers Rights Day. See https://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/carers-rights-day/carers-rights-day-resources . It is also St Andrews Day, so a day of celebration of national identity and affirmation of our sense of belonging one to the other.

It is therefore very appropriate that it is a day when we consider the importance of human rights to both paid and unpaid care and the role that care for others can have in creating a society in Scotland which values all, has care at its centre, and creates potential for everyone to be treated with dignity and respect.

A couple of weeks ago I had the immense privilege of speaking to the Coalition of Carers conference in Edinburgh. The room was full of dedicated individuals who were involved in either supporting family carers or who were individuals who cared for a family member.

I spoke to the group about how important it was for us to see the rights of family carers as basic human rights. We reflected on the way in which over the last ten years and more since the Scottish Parliament was formed that human rights have become embedded in political and policy discourse, and how so many pieces of our social care legislation have human rights at their core.

However, I also shared my belief, and it is not inappropriate to reflect upon this today as we start to consider the approach to the 10th December, that the journey towards  the realisation of human rights cannot conclude with the passing of innovative and good legislation.

The real journey towards embedding rights for unpaid and family carers and for those who work in social care has to be in the robust implementation of all this good human rights based social care legislation.

In that analysis, I believe, we still have a considerable distance to go on the journey. Sadly we know all too often and for far too many, especially older Scots, that the promise is unfulfilled.

There are too many citizens today across Scotland who are not being able to fulfil their rights to the provisions of e.g., the Self-directed Support legislation. There are too many instances where we are playing at the system change and power transfer which some of our social care legislation predicates. There are too many who are not being properly assessed for their social care outcomes but for whom basic needs are only being addressed; too many who are not being told what budget they have to spend and are being denied information to enable them to exercise informed choice; too many who are having even their already basic packages of care diminished and reduced.

We stand or fall in human rights terms not by what we promise and speak of, not by what we legislate and declare, but by what we enact, do and fulfil. In those terms we have some way to go before we have the ability to say that social care in Scotland has truly embedded human rights principles and is realising the human rights of our citizens.

Implementation of rights is as critical as the articulation of those rights. Robust monitoring and inclusive evaluation is fundamental to ensuring people are not being led up to the top of the hill of promise and then let to slide backwards into disappointment.

Every day 6,000 people across the UK become carers but often it’s not something they have prepared or planned for. This year’s Carers Rights Day is focusing on supporting people to prepare for the future through the theme Caring for Your Future.  It has three main focus areas:

  1. Making carers aware of their rights.
  2. Letting carers know where to get help and support.
  3. Raising awareness of the needs of carers.

Carers Rights Day raises awareness of the needs of carers with the wider public, decision makers and professionals. Its aim is to realise the vision of a society that respects, values and supports carers.

Too often in the past the voices of paid care organisations and family carers have been seen in opposition or discord, but the truth is that care unites us around a joint desire to ensure that the human rights of those cared for are upheld, that the abilities of unpaid and paid carers are valued and resourced, and that together we work to create a society where those who require support achieve and receive adequate care which enables them to continue to be the full citizens of our shared community, entitled to full rights and to be treated with full dignity.

That journey starts with good legislation for carers and social care, it progresses with robust implementation of it, and it reaches its end with a society that truly gives value, affirms and welcomes the contribution and presence of all.

That, I would suggest, was the energy and passion which inspired those who sat and signed the UN Declaration nearly 70 years ago. It should be our shared task on this Carers Rights Day and every day.

Dr Donald Macaskill

@DrDMacaskill