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Discrimination and people in residential care

This advice applies to England

You mustn’t be discriminated against when you’re in a care home.

Read this page to find out more about discrimination if you're in a care home.

Have you suffered unlawful discrimination?

The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. This means you can take action in the civil courts.

If you think a care home has discriminated against you and you want to take action about it, you should check whether the discrimination is unlawful.

You can follow these steps to check whether unlawful discrimination has taken place:

  • why you are being treated unfairly - unfair treatment only counts as unlawful discrimination if it's for certain reasons
  • who is treating you unfairly - unfair treatment only counts as unlawful discrimination if it's carried out by certain people
  • what kind of behaviour has taken place - only certain types of unfair treatment count as unlawful discrimination
  • how is the treatment unfair - you need to identify what kind of discrimination the unfair treatment could be.

Why are you being treated unfairly?

Remember it's only unlawful discrimination if you’ve been treated unfairly because of:  

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignmen
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

The Equality Act calls these things protected characteristics.

Examples of unlawful discrimination

You’ve been refused a place in care home

If you’ve been refused a place in a care home and it's because of a protected characteristic, it's direct discrimination under the Equality Act. Direct discrimination is where you’re treated differently and worse because of who you are.

Example

You’ve been refused a place in a care home because you’re a transsexual person. This is direct discrimination because of gender reassignment. It’s unlawful and you can take action under the Equality Act.

You’ve been neglected or abused

If you've been neglected or abused and it's because of a protected characteristic, it's direct discrimination.

Example

You mum’s in a nursing home. You’ve noticed she’s often wearing soiled clothes and her room is dirty. You think it’s because she’s a Muslim, as other non-Muslim residents seem to be getting better treatment. This could be direct discrimination against your mum because of her religion.

You’re treated badly or neglected because you’re disabled

If you're treated badly or neglected and it's because you're disabled, it's direct discrimination.

But it's also unlawful discrimination if a care home treats you badly because of something connected to your disability, rather than the disability itself. This is called discrimination arising from disability.

Example

Your dad’s in a care home. He has mental health problems and can become aggressive if he’s stressed or anxious. Recently his behaviour has become worse, he’s very anxious and refuses to eat. The care staff don’t seem to know how to deal with him and he’s not getting appropriate care. You’re angry because you’ve told them they should do things a certain way to make your dad feel safe and less stressed, but no one listens to you.

This could be discrimination arising from disability. Your dad’s being treated badly because of his behaviour, which is connected to his disability.

The care home also has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure your dad is not disadvantaged because of his disability. For example, you could ask the care home to give the staff training in how to deal with residents like your dad. You could also ask that they adopt a personalised care plan which would enable staff to intervene when he becomes stressed or anxious.

Human rights

If you’re in a local authority or private care home and your care is paid for and arranged by your local authority, you have additional protection under the Human Rights Act 1998. You can use human rights law to make your case stronger or you can make a separate human rights claim.

Here are some examples of where you might have a claim under the Human Rights Act.

You’ve been neglected or abused

If you’ve been abused or neglected in a care home, this could breach your human rights. Under human rights law, you have a right not to be treated in an inhuman way. If you've been seriously neglected or abused, it could be a breach of that right.

You’ve been separated from your family members

Under human rights law, you have a right to a private and family life. If you're separated from your family because one of you is placed in a care home far away, this could be a breach of that right.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

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