Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) – UK examination and submissions and UN review

In June 2016, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) will examine the UK’s State report, on the basis of the list of issues decided upon in October 2015.

In 2015, the Equality and Human Rights Commission gave an Oral Statement at the Pre-Sessional Working Group of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and published a report on Socio-economic rights in the UK.

Information about the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Just Fair’s Response to the List of Issues from the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Guidance and background information (published in February 2016).

A Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland report to the United Nations, published in 2016, examines the application in Scotland of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 with respect to the rights of children and young people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights covers a number of issues including the mental healthcare of adults, access to justice, the impact of social security reform on disabled people, women and children and employment contracts for junior doctors in England. The submission was published on 28 April 2016 and follows the earlier submission made in August 2015.

Various civil society organisations in Scotland have sent submissions to the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as part of the on-going Universal Periodic Review. Gender inequality, the disproportionate impacts of austerity and food insecurity are amongst the issues highlighted by the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Engender, and Nourish Scotland.

In June 2016 the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN CESCR) reviewed the UK’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and published its report.

UN CESCR’s recommendations for the UK included that it should:

• ensure that the potential repeal of the Human Rights Act does not lower human rights protections, and that any new Bill of Rights enhances the status of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR);
• only take measures in the context of economic and financial crisis that are temporary, necessary, proportionate, non-discriminatory and that and such measures do not undercut the core minimum content of any ESCR;
• conduct a comprehensive assessment of the cumulative impact of these measures on the enjoyment of ESCR;
• review the impact of reforms to the legal aid system to ensure access to justice in particular for disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups including employment tribunal fees;
• bring into force section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 which sets out the duty of certain public authorities to have due regard to the desirability of reducing socio-economic disadvantage when taking strategic decisions about how to exercise their functions;
• address root causes for groups disproportionately affected by unemployment, and reduce the use of temporary employment, precarious self-employment and zero-hours contracts
• reconsider reductions in protections brought about through the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 and restore the link between the rates of state benefits and the cost of living; and
• ensure the effective implementation of the duties under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to reduce inequalities in access to healthcare and allocate sufficient resources to the mental health sector.