A Study: Do specialists working with the most vulnerable residents have sufficient knowledge in the field of human rights protection?

11 November 2019

The results of a published recent study revealed the unpleasant truth: not all professionals working in care homes have the necessary knowledge on proper enforcement of residents' rights. The report presented by the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office reveals that the rights of particularly vulnerable residents are often unjustifiably restricted; however, specialists, who behave with the residents disrespectfully do not perceive their actions as flawed because they lack the necessary human rights expertise.

Augustinas Normantas, Head of the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office, said he felt the need for such an unusual investigation when he realised that most human rights abuses in social care institutions were linked to the lack of knowledge amongst staff about human rights issues. And the frequent inability of the staff of these institutions to respond to such an important demand for assurance of human rights has a profound negative impact on the welfare, sometimes even the safety, and quality of the services provided by social care institutions.

“Effective human rights enforcement and protection against mistreatment of individuals are closely linked to the professional qualifications of social workers. After all, social work is a value-oriented profession that aims to help the person seeking help to defend and enforce his/her rights. I think that the state should take steps to include human rights topics in the training programmes for the staff working in social care institutions,” observes the Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas.

The report revealed that one of the most important descriptions of the nursing field of studies, on which higher education institutions rely, is that there is no general requirement for graduates in nursing studies to have knowledge and competences in the field of human rights. The Seimas Ombudsman regrets that also not all persons who have completed vocational training programmes in the social services and health care fields acquire the necessary knowledge related to protection and implementation of human rights.

In his report, the Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas also points out that even the Description of the Procedure for the Developments of Professional Competence does not include the requirement of knowledge and competence in the field of human rights. Of the more than 170 current and ongoing professional development programs in the social services field, human rights training is provided in only a few programmes.

“Human rights are still not sufficiently addressed in most nursing education institutions. There is no separate subject on human rights in the programmes, and the general subjects devote only a few academic hours to human rights issues. It is nonetheless disappointing that a separate topic of human rights, which would include prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, is still not the case,” says the Ombudsman.

After presenting the report, the Seimas Ombudsman addressed the President of the Republic of Lithuania, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights and the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Science, asking them to take into account the need revealed by the report to pay more attention to assurance of human rights and protection issues when training professionals. And the Chancellor of the Government, who is very focused on the presented report, pointed out to the ministries that it was extremely important and expedient to respond to the recommendations of the Seimas Ombudsman.

In the report, which revealed a number of legislative gaps, the Seimas Ombudsman made recommendations to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education, Science and Sport and the Minister of Social Security and Labour. The recommendations ask ministers to take steps to ensure that all those who complete vocational training programmes in the social services and health care sectors have the knowledge and competences in the field of human rights.

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