Lewisham Mental Health Carers forum March 2021

Welcome to a brief update of our March mental health carers forum for the borough of Lewisham. The carer’s forum is chaired by unpaid carer Matthew Mckenzie who runs many engagement and peer groups in South London aimed at families and carers who care for someone suffering mental illness or mental distress.

The speakers for the month of March 2021 were

British Institute of human rights.
Wendy Dewhirst SLaM new Community manager for Lewisham.


It is clear that unpaid carers have rights, otherwise we would not have the ‘Care Act 2014’, but what is not clear is how unpaid carer rights are linked into human rights. This is why I am linking carers to understand more about human rights.

Carlyn Miller who is the policy and programs manager at the British Institute of human rights came along to talk about human rights linked to carer’s rights. She brought her powerpoint slides and did a great presentation.

First Carlyn presented on what the British Institute of Human rights do (BIHR).

The British Institute of Human rights aim to include:

PEOPLE: with information on human rights to change own lives. Knowledge is power!
COMMUNITIES: to address social justice issues using human rights.
SYSTEMS: to increase the accountability of public bodies to respect and protect human rights in everything they do, every day.
POLICY: sharing the stories of people whose rights are risked to help change policy that affects them and their families.

Carlyn has been at the BIHRs for three years, and her backgrounds is on human rights law, but she has been working on health and care specifically for about 8 years. In terms of what the BIHR do they are a charity. Importantly, they work within systems as to work with NHS trusts, CCGs and local authorities to support them to understand their legal duties under human rights law, and what that means when they’re delivering services like mental health services. The BIHR recently did a session in February for staff working in inpatient settings within South London and Maudsley. The BIHR delivered training now to therapy staff and the BIHR hope to deliver some more because they know that you can empower people and carers to know everything there is to know about human rights law.

It was mentioned that a week from the forum the BIHR was running a session for people and families, carers of loved ones who have experience of the Mental Health Act, to come on and tell the BIHR what they think about the plans to change the mental health act 1983. The BIHRs want to use that information and respond back to the government, that being the department of health and social care.

Your can read the British Institute’s of Human Rights reponse below.


Carlyn Miller spoke on the following.

  • Understanding how human rights are protected in the UK
  • Know more about how services need to be respecting and protecting carer’s human rights.
  • Real life examples of human rights specifically for people in a caring role.

Carlyn started off by stating that Human rights is being treated with dignity, respect and being treated fairly. What’s important is that although these are values, human rights are more than values. Human rights are the law. So these are not just nice ideas or things that services should do if they feel like it. In the UK, they are enshrined in law to protect us. So who has human rights? every person has the same human rights. So carers have the same human rights as the person that you care for or care about. Your rights need to be respected and protected, as well as your family member or your loved ones, who may be receiving mental health services or other services. Human rights are not gifts from government or rewards that you have for good behaviour, they belong to us simply because we are human.

Carlyn Miller contintued on by stating we are all protected by the Human Rights Act, and that she would not mind talking a little bit about the history of the Human Rights Act, because it’s more important to focus on what this means for us all. The Human Rights Act passed in 1980 in the UK, and so legal duty is on public bodies, and the UK to respect and protect human rights. It’s not just an delivery of services, but it’s actually an everything they do regarding policy, all of their commissioning strategies and everything to respect and protect human rights. This includes rights of the person who’s receiving the service and those who care about that person.

The second thing, which is really important on the Human Rights Act is that all other laws have to be applied compatibly with human rights. For example, if your loved one is sectioned under the Human Rights Act and the Mental Health Act, that doesn’t mean that their rights go away. The Mental Health Act has to be applied compatibly with human rights, so an individual’s rights still has to be upheld. All other laws, like the Mental Health Act, the care Act, the mental capacity act, they have to be used in a way which focuses on their rights, and if that’s not happening, you know that the spirit of law has to still uphold their rights. This is where you can question what is happening. Number three regarding human rights is that if either of these things don’t happen or the public bodies isn’t respecting, and protecting human rights, then the person and the UK can take a case to court. Unfortunately that does happen and it happens a lot!

The BIHR know as a human rights charity, that actually taking a legal case is difficult. Legally, it can be hard to get it solicitation, which is also stressful and time consuming. The BIHR do not do litigation, Instead they support people to KNOW their rights, and the BIHRs support staff to understand their duties and to make sure that they uphold them in practice.

Carlyn mentioned something that’s really important and that is the Human Rights Act is really broad. So the legal duty is not just on what we would maybe think of as national public bodies, but it goes much further. It’s on anyone who’s delivering a public function. So it’s not about who the body is being NHS or Social services. It’s about what they’re doing.


Carlyn also talked more indepth about the Human Rights Act, where I have briefly show below.

RESPECT: people’s human rights. Not restrict them or try to breach them
PROTECT: people’s human rights. Step in and take positive action to protect people from harm, usually called safeguarding.
FULFILL: people’s human rights. Investigate when things have gone wrong, (and try to stop it from happening again).

She also covered the following.

Where the human rights legal duty means people can

People are encouraged to speak up because we all have human rights which the law says should be respected and protected- that means carers too!

Talk to services about whether they are meeting their legal duty to respect and protect people’s human rights- that means carers too!

Work with services to find better solutions without the need to go to court or use a lawyer- that means carers too!

Carlyn then talked about

The 3 Stage Test

  1. Lawful: There must be a law which allows public officials to take that action.
  2. Legitimate: There must be a good reason (for example public safety or protecting the rights of other people).
  3. Proportionate: Public officials, must have thought about other things they could do, but there is no other way to protect you or other people.

The Human Rights Act on the bottom of the pyramid from the picture above, and everything else has to be compatible with human rights. So that includes the Mental Health Act, the capacity act and the Coronavirus Act. So if you’re ever interacting with the service, where the Coronavirus Act means that your rights don’t matter anymore, you can say NO!!. The Human Rights Act is what we call a foundation law. So it’s on the bottom, and everything else has to be applied compatibly with other laws, regulations and guidance policy, let’s say the hospital says “Well, that is our new policy and it does not apply to anything else”.

You can challenge and say, “Well, policy has to be applied compatibly with my human rights, it doesn’t matter what that policy says”. It has to uphold human rights, or everything ought to be compatible.

Carlyn also covered “The Right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way”

This protects people from being treated in a way which causes them serious mental or physical harm or humiliates them,


Serious harm arising from a lack of care/support or self neglect

Severe abuse or ill treatment by others (which could include practitioners, family members, carers)

The British Institute covered many other things including answering questions from participants, they were also happy to attend my other carer groups in the future.

WENDY DEWHIRST SLaM new Community manager PRESENTS

Wendy who is now Lewisham’s general manager for the community services engaged with families and carers from my Lewisham Mental Health carer forum. She actually has been at South London & Maudsley NHS FT trust services for 2 years. Wendy’s role is overseeing operationally all of Lewisham’s adult community mental health services. So that includes early intervention services, the treatment team, primary care services, assessment and liaison, promoting recovery, low intensity team and the personality disordered pathway. It’s difficult, because at the moment they are going through a transformation. So the main six months has been focused on bringing the transformation plans to the consultation with SLaM staff.

This transformation has to be in line with the NHS long term plan to provide, right local neighborhood services for population health, rather than services were aligned previously to sort of diagnosis. Its about people being able to access services a lot easier. So the services being intervention led, and having a much wider sort of range of professionals and multidisciplinary teams within those services to a very sort of focus on getting people access where they need to go.

Once the Lewisham Mental Health services have gone through transformation, Wendy will have about 13 teams on under her. She will be managing service managers who manage the teams. That includes having an oversight of the budgets, reviewing where services need things, making sure that they are meeting key performance indicators and so on.

What Wendy does to support patients and their carers is to make sure that they are running a quality, efficient service and making sure that they reviewing those markers and being held to account. Wendy also slightly manages complaints and has an oversight of all the complaints that come into their services, where the investigations are done into those. The responses that are provided are always encouraged, because that helps SLaM learn and adapt such services. When it comes to holding to account she is specifically talking about carers. As an example being held to account regarding their transformation. Other holding to account should be done regarding the local authority that is responsible for sort of fair access to carer assessments. This is usually, some sort of form that aims to make carer aware of their needs.

Wendy spoke about other mental health service aspects in the borough of Lewisham, but this concludes our brief update for Lewisham MH Carers forum for March.