Human rights culture ‘would improve people’s lives’


More must be done to harness the power of a human rights culture to improve people’s lives, according to a major independent inquiry.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) human rights inquiry is the most comprehensive yet to examine the impact of the first ten years of the Human Rights Act in England and Wales.
The report concludes that where human rights have been placed at the heart of public sector service delivery, they have delivered successful results.
One disabled hospital patient used the act to secure the right to be fed orally rather than through a tube, according to the inquiry report. And a disabled people’s organisation used human rights arguments to secure a severely disabled young man’s return to college.
A survey commissioned for the inquiry found that 84 per cent of adults agree that it is “important to have a law that protects human rights in Britain”, although 42 per cent agree that “the only people to benefit from human rights in the UK are criminals and terrorists”.
The report concludes that there is not enough awareness that human rights can be used to improve people’s lives. Factors blamed include inaccurate reporting in the media, and a lack of leadership from local and national government, politicians and the EHRC.
Among recommendations, the report calls for the government to consult on whether it should introduce a new duty on public bodies to promote human rights.
And it says the EHRC should work more closely with the media to raise awareness of human rights.
It also calls for human rights to be “mainstreamed” into the work of public service-providers, while the government should review its decision not to allow the EHRC to help members of the public in important human rights cases.
Dame Nuala O’Loan, chair of the inquiry, said: “The evidence we’ve gathered is very clear: the public overwhelmingly supports human rights protection in law, and a human rights approach helps public service providers contribute to a better quality of life for many people.”
But the report concludes that “less than perfect implementation” of the act means its full potential has yet to be harnessed.


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