This lecture explored dignity, human rights based approaches and human rights culture in Scotland.

On 7 December 2022, the Health and Social Care Academy (the Academy) hosted the third lecture in its Being Human lecture series. The event was chaired by Jane Miller, Academy Programme Manager. This lecture took place ahead of International Human Rights Day 2022, on 10 December 2022 (this link will take you away from our website).

Dr Elaine Webster, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Strathclyde, opened the event by exploring dignity in care, the human rights based approach and human rights culture in Scotland. Dr Webster highlighted three key messages:

  • Keeping sight of the ‘why’ behind human rights
  • Embracing accessibility and complexity
  • Connecting the concept of dignity and a human rights based approach to support growth of human rights culture

Drawing on the findings of the Francis Inquiry Report published in February 2013 (this link will take you away from our website), Dr Webster outlined the importance of dignity in care. The Francis Inquiry investigated serious failing at Mid Staffordshire NHS, led by Robert Francis QC. The final report called for “fundamental culture change” and “patient centred culture”.

Research has identified that education has “transformative potential to encourage learning around the concept of dignity”. DigniSpace is an online learning platform focusing on the concept of dignity and based on the five-point PANEL principles framework: Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination and equality, Empowerment, and Legality. In this context, ‘dignity’ can be seen as a ‘pre-PANEL’ principle that underpins a human rights based approach.

Dr Webster concluded the lecture by exploring how talking about the concept of ‘dignity’ can support the growth of a human rights culture. Referring to a report published in March 2022 (this link will take you away from our website), she highlighted that the fundamental value of ‘dignity’ shapes perceptions of international human rights law and can influence how different stakeholders see the relevance of human rights law to the contexts in which they live and work.

Jed Brady, Education and Training Manger at REACH Advocacy (this link will take you away from our website), explored how human rights based approaches are applied in practice to treatment and care in the context of substance use and mental health. Jed highlighted the importance of viewing health in a wider social context by considering how factors such as socioeconomic disadvantage, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), stigma, and trauma can contribute to the complexity of health outcomes. Jed explained that people often have to navigate complex systems, services, and siloes, which can contribute to poor health outcomes. A human rights based approach is a way of cutting through these siloes and ensuring that accountability is built into systems and processes to recognise the individual and all of their rights. As summarised by Jed, “we are all human, we all have rights”.

REACH Advocacy make rights accessible through an approved SQA training which is accredited at level 7 by SCQF. To ensure that human rights have meaning and purpose, we must know what they are and how to implement them in practice. This can be done by using educational tools to apply a human rights based approach, such as the FAIR model and PANEL principles, AAAQ Framework and FREDA Values. Additionally, increased capacity and understanding around human rights legislation and the role of advocacy are key to advancing human rights in practice.

Jed referred to current work underway to integrate human rights into drug and alcohol policy development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation through the National Collaborative (this link will take you away from our website). The National Collaborative will develop a human rights based approach using a dynamic process which involves people with experience of problem substance use, as well as people responsible for delivering support services.

Join the ALLIANCE’s human rights mailing list to keep up to date with our work on human rights and opportunities to get involved by emailing

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