Norwich disabled woman becomes face of national campaign to stop Human Rights Act being scrapped

Jan Sutton billboard. Picture: Supplied

Jan Sutton billboard. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

A severely disabled woman, who successfully challenged Norfolk County Council over her care, has become one of the faces of a nationwide poster campaign urging the government to reconsider plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Jan Sutton, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 20 years ago, successfully used the act to challenge the county council over the quality of care she was receiving.

That led to an improvement in her care and a £9,500 out-of-court settlement, which is why she has joined forces with a group of lawyers to feature in the campaign urging the government – which pledged in its manifesto to scrap the Human Rights Act - to think again.

Ms Sutton, 45, took the county council to judicial review in 2011 because the care package she received from County Hall meant she was forced to remain in bed between 2pm and 5pm and from 5.30pm to 9pm. Her illness means normal day-to-day activity is exhausting for her, including sitting upright, talking, washing, dressing and eating. She needs support just to leave her bed.

She described the care she had been getting as utterly degrading and dehumanising. She said: 'I was not tied to my bed, but I may as well have been.'

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Using the Human Rights Act, Ms Sutton was able to challenge the level of care she was receiving from the council's social services, and show that it was insufficient for her to have even a semblance of a normal life and retain her dignity.

As a result of the legal action, the county council paid her the settlement and agreed to increase the number of hours of funded support she received from 50 hours to 70 hours a week.

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She was also referred to NHS Norfolk asking it to carry out an assessment for continuing healthcare funding. She now receives just over 100 hours of care a week from NHS Norfolk and says it has improved her life immeasurably.

Ms Sutton, who lives in West Earlham, said: 'When I was younger, human rights was about foreign countries, or other people far away.

'It's only now that I've become more disabled, and now I've had my own personal experience of poor human rights that I've realised we've got enough to work on in the UK, and that really matters.

'I looked at the Human Rights Act and realised it was saying yes, you are worth as much as any other human being.'

Ms Sutton features on billboard posters around the country, including a nine metre tall one which towers over the M5 at Birmingham. which have been produced by campaign group Act for the Act. Posters will appear in Norfolk and near Tube stations in London.

The campaign, which asks people to sign a letter asking justice secretary Michael Gove to save the act, will also see the release of a short film about Ms Sutton.

The Conservative Party 2015 manifesto included a pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act and to replace it with a British Bill of Rights. This month, the government announced it would be consulting on new legislation in early 2016.

The county council said, where people are concerned about the care they have received, the authority works hard to try to find solutions.

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