The potential role of human rights and the right to privacy in the context of English care homes for older people
: multiple perspectives

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the potential role of human rights and the right to privacy in care homes for older people in England. It does so from the perspective of residents, their relatives, care home managers, care workers and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – England’s care service quality regulator. The findings rely on qualitative interviewing techniques, document analysis and simple quantitative research methods. Care homes for older people in England are increasingly required to consider the human rights of residents and staff on the basis of a human-rights-oriented legal and regulatory framework. This framework is developing in the wider context of a growing international consensus on shared responsibility for human rights amongst public entities, private entities and individuals, debate on how to protect the rights of older people and people with disabilities, and ongoing concerns about quality in English care homes. Under British human rights law, the government and its representatives still have the main responsibility for human rights – the rights of all human beings. However, most of England’s care homes are privately owned and run. When applied to care homes, the human-rights-oriented legal and regulatory framework marks a shift in the traditional conceptualisation of human rights in England. This poses questions about the purpose of and need for such an approach, and its practical implications for care homes and their communities. This thesis develops a typology of perspectives on the potential role of human rights in care homes for older people by drawing on the study’s findings and the socio-legal and social policy literature. It reveals multiple approaches to and views on the topic, and highlights the challenges in realising the potential roles identified. Furthermore, it argues that the topic of human rights in English care homes for older people is an emotive one. Perspectives on its potential role are shaped by social, political and personal realities and the experiences of individuals in care home communities. The study suggests that future international and national debates on the human rights of older care home residents should not assume a consensus on the potential role of human rights in care homes. Furthermore, any effort to integrate human rights into care homes should consider the complicated realities of people who live in, work in or visit these places and the implications of these on such efforts. The findings on the purpose of the right to privacy and its implications for care practice provide a framework for respecting this right in care homes.
Date of Award1 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJill Manthorpe (Supervisor) & Anthea Tinker (Supervisor)

Cite this