Commission statement on human rights in care homes

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has released the following statement in response to recent correspondence received from Richard Leonard MSP, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party:

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted on Scotland’s care homes, which are home to people who are at heightened risk from the virus. The situation experienced in care homes raises a number of serious human rights concerns under Article 2 of European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the right to life.

Human rights law is clear that everyone’s right to life must be protected by law and the state has a duty to take action when threats to life occur. The state has an obligation to undertake an investigation when life has been lost in circumstances that potentially engage state responsibility under Article 2.

Other ECHR rights such as the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment, right to a private, home and family life, and right to non- discrimination must also be considered when investigating the situation of deaths in Scotland’s care homes over the past few months.

The Commission welcomes that there will be a public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including what has happened in care homes, which was announced by the First Minister in Parliament on Wednesday 27 May 2020. Under human rights laws all inquiries should be independent, prompt, determine responsibility, subject to public scrutiny and must allow for the involvement of next-of-kin.

The Commission plans to publish a briefing setting out the human rights framework relevant to the situation experienced in care homes which we hope will help inform the scope of any public inquiry. We believe a human rights based inquiry is necessary in relation to these issues and will engage as appropriate within our mandate, powers and resources. The Commission is also looking at COVID-19 impacts in other social care settings and will be publishing our analysis reporting on this later in the year.