Creating a fairer Britain
The guidance reviewed in this resource covers a wide range of issues and different areas of the public sector. However, there are some common and recurring themes that will be applicable to everyone.
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.
The Human Rights Act is not just about preventing public authorities from taking certain actions. It also requires them to take proactive steps to prevent breaches of human rights from happening in the first place, no matter who or what is causing the harm.
Human rights can establish a set of shared standards that apply to all. This can be of particular value in underpinning a range of policy and practice developments, and in safeguarding vital services, particularly for the most vulnerable groups.
Human rights principles can strengthen decision-making at both corporate and service levels and help to prevent service failure. Human rights can provide an important 'check and balance' - helping to determine proportionate action, especially where the interests of different parties conflict.
Human rights provide a practical framework for making decisions in difficult situations. For example:
The principle of proportionality is at the heart of a human rights framework. 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.
Proportionality is an important mechanism for:
To decide whether restrictions on a right are proportionate, there are a number of key questions that need to be asked:
A Human Rights approach can also support managers to balance different people's rights and to know when one person's rights can be restricted to protect those of others.
For example, restrictions must:
Human rights can be used to ensure that risk management practice is lawful, balances the interests of all those involved, and is proportionate - that is, appropriate and not excessive in the circumstances.
Risk assessment is not something that should be 'done to' someone: the person being assessed should be as thoroughly involved in the process as possible.
An emphasis on proactive rather than reactive strategies is more likely to be consistent with human rights.
Human rights can be infringed when public authorities are excessively risk averse as well as when they fail to act to prevent risk.
A human rights approach to risk means always taking the least restrictive option available.
The inclusion of service users, is an essential part of a human rights based approach
Meaningful involvement and participation of service users in decisions about their lives is particularly important.
Human rights can be used - both by staff and service users - to challenge outmoded practices or services, which are designed around the needs of service providers rather than users.
Embedding human rights principles can have benefits in terms of staff morale and enthusiasm - re-connecting staff with core public service values.
Human rights address the question of what it means to treat people with dignity and respect. Viewing equality issues through a human rights lens can help to shift the emphasis from negative compliance to positive cultural change. For example this can help to:
Human rights offer a vision of equality which can protect people from ill-treatment by 'plugging gaps' in the anti-discrimination framework. A human rights vision of equality gives 'added value' by extending beyond anti-discrimination to encompass fairness of treatment, dignity, and respect.
Human rights can also protect people who experience forms of ill-treatment that may not be considered discriminatory and therefore fall outside the protection offered by anti-discrimination legislation.
The promotion of human rights awareness within public services is vital not only to facilitate the development of a tangible human rights culture within the services, but also to demonstrate commitment to human rights in dealing with the public.
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.
Building a Human Rights culture emphasises the importance of staff and users recognising their common humanity.
Promoting and protecting Human Rights also improves operational efficiency.
Adopting a Human Rights approach means integrating human rights into existing initiatives and processes (such as those linked to equality and diversity) rather than 'reinventing the wheel'