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Call for social workers to have improved human rights training after Neary Case

BASW says case reflects a wider need

BASW has called for training to be included in social work degree courses on respecting individual's human rights in the light of the case of Steven Neary who was detained unlawfully by Hillingdon Council.

The Council apologised to Steven Neary, who has autism, and his father Mark on 9 June after the Court of Protection ruled that their treatment of the 21-year-old breached his human rights. The Court found that Hillingdon was in breach of Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, Mr Neary's right to privacy in family life and his right not to be detained unlawfully.
Ruth Stark, manager of the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW – part of BASW) and human rights convener at the International Federation of Social Workers said the judgement goes much wider than Hillingdon, extending to all local authority social workers.

"We each have an obligation to ensure that our practice is human rights compliant," she said. "What are the factors that we should be considering when making assessments about the risk people pose to themselves or other people and what are the factors we should consider in respecting people's human rights including that of self-determination?

"I would like to think this is a standard module on every social work training course and is offered on a regular basis for continuing professional development (CPD)."

Steven's detention only occurred after his father asked Hillingdon Council for a short period of respite care. The Council then detained Steven, using a deprivation of liberty order, for nearly a year after he was taken to a positive behaviour unit following outbursts which Steven's father attributed to his son's stress at being away from home.

Mr Justice Jackson concluded that the Council's use of the order unlawfully deprived Steven of his freedom.

Linda Sanders, director of social care at Hillingdon Council, apologised to Steven and his father.

"It is clear that there have been times when we have let both of them down.

"Cases such as Steven's are hugely complex and we always have to carefully balance what we think is right for an individual with the wider issues such as the safety of the public," she added.

She said the Council had already made significant changes and is currently reviewing its training for staff who deal with the Mental Capacity Act and Deprivation of Liberty safeguards.