A human rights approach to risk management balances individual rights within the management strategy

The prescribing of psychotropics for people with intellectual disability needs to be addressed.

A number of recent inquiries have highlighted the concern that people with learning disabilities may on occasion be denied access to their basic human rights. The authors of this study set out to explore this concern in relation to approaches to risk management taken in services, which they suggest may focus too much on professional assessments of risks and challenging behaviour and therefore exclude important service user perspectives.  They set out to express a number of principles of a human rights-based approach to risk assessment and management.

The authors suggest that there is a need to balance the human rights of service users, their carers and members of their communities. They argue that by achieving this balance, the management of risk can be achieved within a positive paradigm.

The approach they advocate, based on their local experience emphasises service user inclusion, recognising the the impact of diverse identities on risk behaviours. The issue of human rights in risk management decisions are then made explicit.

They conclude that a human rights approach offers a “coherent unifying framework for much current best practice; prompting all involved to design proactive, proportional risk management strategies which balance the rights involved in the person’s risky behaviours with the rights involved in the management strategy.”  The approach is outlined in a number of case examples.

Promoting service user inclusion in risk assessment and management: a pilot project developing a human rights-based approach, Greenhill, B. & Whitehead, R.  In British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39: 277–283.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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