Equalities watchdog launches online human rights resource for public sector PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 01 August 2011 15:04

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has unveiled an online resource about human rights to help public sector bodies in England and Wales and organisations carrying out public functions and advocacy.

The resource covers nine areas: adult social care; children's services; health; housing; education services; local government; criminal justice; courts and prisons; policing, and immigration and asylum.

The EHRC has also outlined a number of common and recurring themes from the guidance “that should be applicable to everyone”: They are:

  • Positive obligations: “The Human Rights Act means that all public authorities have an obligation to ensure that people's rights are respected in all that they do”
  • Human rights as an aid to decision making: “Human rights principles can strengthen decision-making at both corporate and service levels and help to prevent service failure,” the EHRC said. “Human rights can provide an important 'check and balance' – helping to determine proportionate action, especially where the interests of different parties conflict”
  • Proportionality: “The principle of proportionality is at the heart of a human rights framework,” the Commission argued. “This can be summarised as 'not using a sledgehammer to crack a nut'. It ensures that any restriction of a person's human rights is kept to a minimum”
  • Assessing and managing risk: “Human rights can be used to ensure that risk management practice is lawful, balances the interests of all those involved, and is proportionate,” the EHRC said. Human rights can be infringed when public authorities are excessively risk averse as well as when they fail to act to prevent risk, it added
  • User and public involvement: “The inclusion of service users, is an essential part of a human rights based approach”
  • Equality and good relations: “Viewing equality issues through a human rights lens can help to shift the emphasis from negative compliance to positive cultural change”
  • Building a human rights culture: “Leadership, senior level commitment and engagement, and effective training in human rights principles and practice are fundamental to any organisation committed to compliance with the Human Rights Act.”

The EHRC’s 29 pieces of guidance bring together learning materials about the human rights obligations of the public sector and how to successfully implement them. “These materials include tried and tested examples of how to consider human rights in public service delivery as well as case studies, informal guidance, inspection standards and impact assessments,” it said.

The Commission has also included materials on supporting the human rights of particular groups such as older and disabled people and refugees and asylum seekers.

There are summaries of each publication to highlight the key human rights messages and other essential information. These were produced by the Human Rights and Social Justice Research Institute at London Metropolitan University.

Philip Hoult


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