Case Study

Bill's right to privacy regarding personal correspondence

Bill has an acquired brain injury and has problems with his sight as a result. Bill is only able to read letters and other information if they are adapted in a specific way to meet his needs. Bill requires documents to be in a large text and the font and background need to be in a specific colour to allow him to read and process the information. Bill had requested for correspondence from health and social care services to be amended to meet his sensory needs.  Bill had been informed by these services that it would take them “too much time” to alter the formatting of the documents to accommodate his needs.

Bill, with the support of his advocate, initiated a complaint against these services for not meeting his communication needs. During the complaints process, the services involved stated that Bill had time each week with his direct payment workers to support him to read and process incoming correspondence and that due to this, they did not need to provide information in a person specific format.

Bill highlighted that information contained within his correspondence with them was private and he did not want to share this information with his support staff. Bill explained that the hours used through his direct payments were for general correspondence and not confidential information. Bill stated that if he were to have to share all his correspondence with his support workers, that this would be a breach of his privacy. 

To support Bill’s argument, his Advocate supported Bill to refer to Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, in particular his right to private correspondence.

Article 8 protects your right to respect for private and family life, your home and correspondence. Correspondence includes things like, letters, emails, fax, telephone.”

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/civil-rights/human-rights/what-rights-are-protected-under-the-human-rights-act/your-right-to-respect-for-private-and-family-life

Bill’s advocate also informed him of the Accessible Information Standard which is a legal requirement for health and social care services to follow:

The Accessible Information Standard (AIS) was introduced by the government in 2016 to make sure that people with a disability or sensory loss are given information in a way they can understand. It is now the law for the NHS and adult social care services to comply with AIS.

Bill highlighted this legislation in his complaint, which resulted in Bill achieving his desired outcome. Bill’s correspondence is now provided in line with his sensory needs and promote his understanding and most importantly, his independence. Bill is now able to read his correspondence without assistance from his support workers, maintaining his privacy.  Additionally to this, Bill’s rights under the Care Act in relation to the wellbeing principles have been enhanced as Bill now has a greater level of control over his day to day living and no longer feels stressed having to share his confidential information with his support staff, promoting his emotional wellbeing under the Act.