People working in public services have little understanding of the
Human Rights Act 1998 and what their responsibilities are under it,
according to a report.
The new study, by the British Institute of Human Rights, finds that
public services staff, particularly those on the front line, do not
understand what the act is, the rights it contains and their
responsibilities to uphold it.
The report recommends setting up a commission that could work in
partnership with regulatory, training and industry bodies to
promote and protect human rights.
It would show 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, senior national officer for local government at public
sector union Unison, 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.
Researchers sifted evidence from 32 voluntary organisations in four
sectors – children, disabled people, older people, and refugees and
The findings suggest that older people are routinely treated with a
lack of dignity. It concludes that many workers in care settings
are not aware of the principles in the Human Rights Act and do not
understand their role in upholding them.
Tessa Harding, head of policy at older people’s charity Help the
Aged, said the principles under the act were not “part and parcel”
of delivering services.
“There is a need for the Human Rights Act to be reflected in the
policies and practices of organisations, particularly local
authorities, around social care and health,” she said.
Veronica Plowden, national coordinator at the Children’s Rights
Alliance for England, said fear of the consequences deterred
individuals from making complaints.
“Parents and children themselves are often nervous about
challenging their treatment when using public services, fearing
that they will suffer recrimination or withdrawal of services,” she
– Something for Everyone from www.bihr.org