Staff unaware of human rights duties

People working in public services have little understanding of
the Human Rights Act 1998 and their responsibilities under it,
according to a new report, writes Katie
Leason.

The damning report, by the British Institute of Human Rights,
finds that public services staff, particularly those on the
frontline, do not understand what the act is, the rights it
contains and their responsibilities to uphold it.

The setting up of a human rights commission is recommended to
promote and protect human rights. Such a commission could work in
partnership with regulatory, training and industry bodies “to
demonstrate that the act is not simply about legal challenges;
rather, it gives all staff in the public sector a responsibility to
promote and uphold human rights”.

Owen Davies, Unison’s senior national officer for local
government, insisted that there was no hostility among staff
towards the Human Rights Act.

“But they need training, advice and support from employers
so they know what their responsibilities are and make sure they
carry them out,” he said.

The research involved evidence from 32 voluntary organisations
across four sectors – children, disabled people, older people, and
refugees and asylum seekers.

The findings suggest that older people are routinely treated
with a lack of dignity.

Tessa Harding, head of policy at Help the Aged, said the
principles under the act are not “part and parcel” of
delivering services.

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