EHRC human rights strategy

On 10 October 2009, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) set out its plan to preserve the rights in the Human Rights Act and to protect and promote respect for human rights principles.

One of the core principles in the Commission’s three-year strategy is for any future legislative developments, such as a proposed Bill of Rights, to have the rights and remedies of the Human Rights Act at their heart, so that the protection it provides is retained.

The Commission’s strategy aims to create a climate of respect for human rights – through promoting understanding, demonstrating the value of human rights law in people’s everyday lives, and using its legal powers.

It intends to promote widespread and accurate understanding of human rights and help to translate the law into practical action by public, private and voluntary organisations.

The Commission will develop innovative ways to measure the performance of government and public authorities on human rights and work to strengthen the degree of accountability of the UK Government to the United Nations in relation to torture, race discrimination and disability rights.

In July this year, the Commission published its Human Rights Inquiry. With evidence gathered from more than 2,800 people, it is the most comprehensive research to date into the Human Rights Act’s first ten years and how human rights principles have been adopted by public institutions.

The Inquiry found that eight in ten people in Britain want human rights protection enshrined in the law and recognise the importance of human rights in creating a fair and equal society. It also revealed that where a human rights approach is incorporated into the delivery of public services, both users and providers benefit.

The Commission is inviting feedback on the strategy and will be discussing the most effective way to implement its aims, objectives and proposed actions with interested parties.’

Click here for details

Click here for details of the EHRC human rights inquiry

RADAR research on disabled people in senior jobs

In September 2009, RADAR published ‘Doing Seniority Differently. A study of high fliers living with ill-health, injury or disability’.

The report sets out to answer some key questions on seniority and disability: is there a pool of people living with ill-health, injury or disability working in senior jobs? If so, who are they, what factors have enabled them to progress in their careers, what sectors are they in, what are their experiences?

Despite the presence of high fliers, the report found that sharp inequalities persist. There are also important inequalities among disabled people – in relation to age, gender, ethnicity and impairment type.

Click here for full report

Click here for easy read summary

Research on age, sexual orientation, and religion and belief

On 7 October 2009, the Equality and Human Rights Commission published Integration in the workplace: emerging employment practice on age, sexual orientation and religion or belief.

The report, by Sue Bond, Emma Hollywood and Fiona Colgan, examines good practice in relation to recruitment, promotion or advancement at work based on the three equality strands of age, sexual orientation and religion or belief.

EHRC reports on sexual orientation

On 12 October 2009, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) launched a series of reports into the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people in Britain.

Beyond Tolerance: Making Sexual Orientation a Public Matter celebrates the considerable progress that has been made in tackling homophobia in the past 40 years, and sets out measures organisations could take to tackle the discrimination that persists.

The Commission also produced six supplementary reports on a range of specific issues.

ISER Recession research

The substantial increase in the numbers of people out of work during the recession will hit ethnic minority groups, young adults and those with poor educational qualifications hardest. Those are the predictions of the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex.

The overall unemployment rate has already doubled, and things are likely to get worse before they get better according to ISER’s Professor Richard Berthoud, who has examined earlier UK recessions to predict what impact the current downturn will have and who will be most affected by it.

One important conclusion is that it is not just the unemployed who are affected by the business cycle. The research suggests that for every rise of 100,000 people who say they are actively looking for work, there will be a further 27,000 increase in the number who give other reasons (such as motherhood or disability) for not having a job, but have nevertheless been affected by the weak labour market.

Main findings include:

  • The proportion of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis out of work – already high at 47% – would rise by nearly 7 percentage points.
  • The number of 20-24 year-olds without jobs would soar by quarter, compared with those aged 55-59 who would see a rate rise of just 1 in 25.
  • Under qualified people – already seriously disadvantaged – would see an increase of between 4 and 5 percentage points, compared with an increase of about 2 percentage points for those with good qualifications.

Commenting on his findings, Richard Berthoud said: “These results are based on the assumption that the unemployment rate doubles in the current recession – which has already happened. Given that the rate peaked at more then 10 per cent in the recessions of 1983 and in 1993, a further substantial increase in joblessness may well take place before the tide turns. If so, all the outcomes will be worse than those predicted in this research.”

Making use of the General Household Survey to look at the impact of recession, the research is based on a complex analysis of information collected from more than 360,000 individuals between1974 and 2005. The employment fluctuations observed in previous recessions are projected to the labour market conditions of the late 2000s.

Contrary to expectation, however, other disadvantaged groups with poor underlying job prospects, such as disabled people and mothers, are not expected to face severe additional problems if jobs are scarce. Richard Berthoud points out that more than half of the most disadvantaged people are out of work in any case and so are relatively unaffected by a recession.

Click here for ‘Patterns of non-employment, and of disadvantage, in a recession’

Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress

The Stiglitz Commission report on ‘The Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress’ was published in September 2009.

The Commission was created in 2008 by the French Government in response to concerns about the adequacy of current measures of economic performance, in particular those based on GDP figures, and the relevance of these figures as measures of societal well-being.

The Commission’s aim is to identify the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress, to consider additional information required for the production of a more relevant picture, to discuss how to present this information in the most appropriate way, and to check the feasibility of measurement tools proposed by the Commission.

Click here for link

Report on ‘Poverty, inequality and human rights’

‘Poverty, inequality and human rights’ by Alice Donald and Elizabeth Mottershaw was published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on 3 September 2009.

The research examines how human rights have been used internationally to shape new conceptions of poverty and new approaches to combating it, and assesses the lessons for the UK.

Key points include:

  • In both wealthy and low-income countries, people working to combat poverty have used human rights to: reframe conceptions of poverty and challenge stereotypes of people affected by it; to mobilise alliances between disparate groups around anti-poverty goals; and to hold governments accountable for poverty inside and outside the courtroom.
  • Communities affected by poverty that have asserted their right to participate in decision-making have generated practical and cost-effective policy solutions.
  • Legal enforcement of socio-economic, civil and political rights has reduced poverty in some circumstances.
  • Governmental use of human rights is episodic but has brought benefits. Some governments have used human rights to bring coherence to – and permit prioritisation within – anti-poverty strategies and to set transparent targets.
  • Within the UK human rights and anti-poverty communities, some think that introducing socio-economic rights more visibly into UK public debate – and building the role of civil and political rights as an anti-poverty tool – may help shift negative perceptions of both human rights and poverty. However, some see human rights as politically ineffective.

The authors conclude that now is the right time to explore ways of strengthening the integration of human rights and anti-poverty strategies in the UK, especially where there is evidence of positive impact internationally. There is also potential to explore how human rights could be used to challenge regressive welfare reform and notions of personal responsibility that underpin it, as activists have done in the United States.

Click here for link

Runnymede report on ethnicity and cash machines

In August 2009, the Runnymede Trust published ‘Who Pays to Access Cash? Ethnicity and Cash Machines’.

The report, by Omar Khan and Ludi Simpson, considers the relationship between ethnicity and cash machine location. It suggests that if people in areas without free cash machines always used their nearest fee-charging machine they would pay an extra £120 pounds per year in charges; BME people are more likely to live in these areas.

Click here for link