In May 2013 the Equality and Human Rights Commission issued new guidance to local authorities on human rights issues in the commissioning of home care. The guidance has no legal force, but it is a particularly comprehensive and helpful document and should be recommended reading for anyone with responsibility for home care commissioning.

The guidance demystifies the Human Rights Act and shows that it can be used constructively and proactively to ensure higher standards of provision and a better service for service-users. In that respect, the emphasis in the guidance is on substance over form. Some of its recommendations may have cost implications but many others are likely to be cost-neutral.

In brief, the guidance sets out the ways in which traditional practices and procedures can be used to promote human rights, and how human rights can interact with and amplify other agendas such as personalisation and equalities. It contains extensive practical advice and illustrative examples, and focuses on the following domains in particular: (1) involving, consulting and engaging service users, their families, and local voluntary sector organisations in the home care commissioning process; (2) taking a human rights approach to joint strategic needs analysis and identifying the needs of the local population; and (3) bringing human rights requirements to the forefront of procurement documentation, service specifications, and contracts.