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On 16 November 2017 the House of Lords is due to debate a motion, moved by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Labour), that “this House takes note of the human rights of older persons, and their comprehensive care”. This briefing provides an overview of human rights as they apply to older people, as well as a discussion of some of the issues relating to their care.

Human Rights

The human rights of older people have been debated at international institutions, including the United Nations and the Council of Europe. Both organisations have adopted resolutions recognising the rights of older people and calling on nations to protect them. In May 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted the report Human Rights of Older Persons and their Comprehensive Care, which recommended actions to combat ageism and social exclusion among older people, and to improve care. The report was drafted by the Council of Europe Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. Lord Foulkes was the Rapporteur.


In England, social care for adults is provided informally, through family, friends and neighbours, or formally, privately purchased or financed by the local authority. Over two-thirds of adults receiving care through local authorities are aged 65 and over. Funding for formal care comes from a variety of sources. In addition to the funding local authorities receive from the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health also partly funds care and related services. Adult social care is the largest area of discretionary spending for local authorities. Local authority spending on social care has decreased in real terms since 2010/11, and cost pressures from a variety of factors have increased the cost of providing social care. A House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee report, published in March 2017, argued that current Government funding commitments are not sufficient to close the funding gap in adult social care.

In England and Wales, if older people are deprived of their liberty for the purposes of care they can be covered by the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. These are intended to ensure that the deprivation of liberty is in the person’s best interests. This legislation was criticised by a House of Lords committee and has been reviewed by the Law Commission, which recommended that it be replaced with a new system.

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