A human rights-based approach to LTC

A human rights-based approach to LTC

“In each situation we confront, a rights-based approach requires us to ask: What is the content of the right? Who are the human rights-holders? Who are the corresponding duty-bearers? Are rights-holders and duty-bearers able to claim their rights and fulfil their responsibilities? And if not, how can we help them to do so?”
Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


As the population aged 65+ in Europe is set to double by 2060, there is an increasing demand on LTC, including in residential settings, which may put the quality of care under severe pressure. A human rights-based approach can help policy-makers and care providers to put the voice of each service-user at the centre of decision-making, in turn influencing the organisation and quality of care.

A human rights-based approach (HRBA) to service delivery is a model that places the principles and standards of human rights as central to all aspects of service planning, policy and practice.

A HRBA has the following key elements:

  • Empowers stakeholders: all key stakeholders (policy-makers, care workers and older persons) are empowered and can participate in achieving the realisation of rights, particularly older service-users
  • Takes into account the wider national and international human rights framework: the rights promoted are explicitly linked to national and international human rights law – click here for an overview of the international human rights standards relevant to LTC
  • Provides clear accountability
  • Prioritises the most discriminated against, marginalised or excluded people.

Human rights principles that underpin a HRBA

A HRBA is underpinned by five key human rights principles.
They are known as the PANEL principles:

Participation - older persons in receipt of care should participate in all decisions about the care and support they are receiving.
Accountability and Transparency of duty-bearers to rights-holders- those involved in the provision, commissioning and policy-making of long-term care have a responsibility to ensure that the standards of accountability and transparency for human rights are as high as possible, as well as providing effective remedies when breaches do occur.
Non-discrimination and equality - older persons also have different identities based on their gender, ethnicity, religion and many other grounds. Each of these identities should be respected when receiving care and support services.
Empowerment of rights holders - all older persons in receipt of care should understand what their rights are and how they can claim these rights. Achieving this may require the provision of appropriate advocacy or other communication support.
Legality – public authorities and care providers must be sure that their practices and procedures are grounded in human rights law and must not breach the human rights of anyone.