Lords amendment to care bill will help make human rights real for everyone

Almost all of us will use social care services in our lifetime, or know someone who will. When we do, we rightly expect that we, and the people we care about, will receive care in a way that respects our basic human rights. We expect to be safe from harm and physical abuse, we expect not to suffer cruelty and we expect our basic human dignity to be upheld by those providing us with care.

Unfortunately, we know all too well that this does not always happen in practice. Winterbourne View, Operation Jasmine, the EHRC’s Close to Home report and the harrowing story of Gloria Foster are recent examples, and sadly there are more, of how the human rights of people receiving care have been breached.

When these kinds of abuses occur, it is vital that the people affected are able to challenge them and get legal remedies. Legal duties on care providers also play an important part in driving a culture of respect for human rights, helping to avoid breaches happening in the first place.

Charities working in the social care field have long been concerned that not everyone receiving care benefits from this vital source of protection. Certain groups, including those who receive home care services provided by private and third sector organisations under a contract to the local authority and those who arrange and pay for their own care are currently not directly protected under the Human Rights Act.

That is why Age UK, Scope, Mind, the British Institute of Human Rights, the Equality and Diversity Forum and others, welcomed Thursday’s move by the House of Lords to amend the Care Bill, extending the protection of the Human Rights Act to everyone using regulated social care, no matter where that care is provided or who pays for it.

The Human Rights Act is a vital safety net that exists to protect us all from harm. While improved regulation, additional safeguarding legislation and better training can also play an important part in making human rights a reality in the care system, this amendment is a welcome move towards ensuring equal protection for everyone. We hope the Government will now support this amendment as the Care Bill moves through the remaining parliamentary process.

Report: ‘Social Media and Public Policy’

Published in September 2013 by the Alliance for Useful Evidence, this report (PDF) considers whether social media data can improve the quality and timeliness of the evidence base that informs public policy. Can the myriad of human connections and interactions on the web provide insight to enable government to develop better policy, understand its subsequent impact and inform the many different organisations that deliver public services?

Government announcement: ‘measures to inject more fairness into the workforce’

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On 16 September 2013, the Business Secretary Vince Cable announced a package of measures to inject more fairness into the workforce and in wages for British workers.

The measures include a consultation on zero-hours contracts and asking the Low Pay Commission to consider how the National Minimum Wage may be able to rise faster than current conditions allow over the medium term.

Click here for details

Policy paper on ‘Social mobility: the next steps’

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Social mobility: the next steps’ by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission was published in September 2013.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission was formally tasked by Ministers to give its view on what further steps the UK government could reasonably take to improve social mobility.

The Commission advised opportunities for low paid workers to move up the career ladder, for young people to move from school to employment, and for disadvantaged youngsters to get support in their earliest years should be Ministers’ top priorities if they are to make headway on tackling the UK’s stagnating levels of social mobility.

The recommendations of the report include that the UK government should:

  • Tackle the prevalence of low pay by changing the law to require listed firms and public sector employers to publish the number of staff earning low pay, and get the Low Pay Commission to set voluntary benchmarks for different sectors. The Commission believes this will help address the current situation where over half of working age adults in poverty and two thirds of children in poverty are in households where at least one adult works.
  • Consider ways to address the income gradient in children’s outcomes, such as stretching the pupil premium into nurseries and targeted antenatal classes that focus on how to help all parents know the basics of child development. The Commission believes that simple messages about the importance of parenting could start to narrow the stark gap in outcomes, for example just 4 in ten (42%) of the poorest children are read to every day compared to almost eight in ten (79%) of children from the richest families.
  • Assess what is happening to careers advice in schools and be prepared to strengthen obligations given widespread concerns that there is a problem. Only one in 20 businesses (5%) across the UK feels careers advice is good enough, while nearly three quarters (72%) think that advice needs to improve.

Click here for details

House of Commons Standard Note: The Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Impact Assessments

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An updated House of Commons Standard Note published in September 2013 outlines the development and operation of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) contained in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. The Duty requires public authorities to have due regard to a number of equality considerations when exercising their functions. The note also provides an overview of Equality Impact Assessments and an update on the outcome of the PSED review.

Click here for link

Publication of Public Sector Equality Duty Review and Government response

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On 6 September 2013, the independent Steering Group’s report of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) review and Government response were published.

The review was announced in May 2012. It arose from the government’s Red Tape Challenge and was established to examine whether the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) is operating as intended. A key aim of the PSED was to sensitise public bodies to equality while addressing the bureaucracy associated with the previous duties on race, disability and gender.

On 6 September, the Government also launched a consultation: ‘Judicial Review: Proposals For Further Reform’. The consultation includes exploring the potential for reform in relation to ‘the use of [Judicial Review] to resolve disputes relating to the public sector equality duty and whether there are suitable alternatives’. The consultation closes at midnight on 1 November 2013.

Click here for link to review, written ministerial statement and NatCen qualitative research to inform the review

Click here for ‘Judicial Review: Proposals for Further Reform’

Click here for details of Equality and Diversity Forum and other responses to the PSED review

Click here for TUC response (6 September) and click here for Touchstone blog by Ben Moxham, Policy Officer at the TUC (11 September)

Click here for Inclusion London response (September 2013)

Click here for Guardian article by Tessa Wright and Hazel Conley (16 September)

Click here for Equality and Human Rights Commission response (6 September)

Legal challenge to ‘Go Home’ vans pilot

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On 12 August 2013, following a legal challenge to the ‘Go Home’ vans pilot, the Government confirmed that if any further campaigns of a similar nature are planned, it would carry out a consultation with local authorities and community groups.

The challenge was brought forward by Deighton Pierce Glynn on behalf of two clients of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London.

It was brought on the basis that the initiative failed to comply with the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act which requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to elimnate discrimination and harassment and to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

It was also reported that the Advertising Standards Campaign is investigating the campaign in response to complaints from the public. This follows reports that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will ‘ask questions about the extent to which the Home Office complied with its public sector equality duty’ when vans were sent around London encouraging illegal immigrants to ‘go home’ and will investigate the use of immigration spot checks to assess whether unlawful discrimination occurred.

Click here for details on the Migrants’ Rights Network website

Click here for Deighton Pierce Glynn press release (12 August)

Click here for BBC report (9 August)

Click here for Sky News report (3 August)

Click here for Guardian report (3 August)