Charities call on Prime Minister to abandon changes to the Human Rights Act

More than 40 advocacy, information and advice charities in Britain are calling on the Prime Minister not to scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA), signalled in last week’s Queen’s Speech.

Helen Moulinos, the CEO of POhWER, has organised an open letter of leading advocacy, information and advice charities, who offer help and assistance to those who cannot freely express themselves, and they are all urging the Government not to press ahead with plans to change or repeal the HRA.

They say that without the legislation as it currently is, “the modern advocacy profession might not exist with the same powerful impact or independent scrutiny”.

They write: “The Human Rights Act is at the epi-centre of a framework of rights and entitlements complemented by the Equality Act, Care Act, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, Liberty Protection Safeguards, Mental Health Act, Mental Capacity Act, related legislation in the devolved nations and Safeguarding.”

Boris Johnson and his ministers have signalled they want to end the legislation, which outlines the rights and freedoms each person in the UK is entitled to, in favour of a British Bill of Rights.

They say this will reinforce “our freedoms under the rule of law” and “provide a clearer demarcation of the separation of powers between the courts and Parliament”.

But advocacy, information and advice charities believe the changes will offer “opt-outs to public authorities to pick and choose whose rights they supported” and “significantly reduce the legal responsibilities” that the Government has towards them.

They say: “We help people to live as equal people through the cases we manage to have their human rights upheld in public services.

“Advocates can also provide information and signpost people to other helpful services. Our intervention often means people do not need to access justice through the courts or legal pathway as our intervention empowers people and protects their human rights.”

“We are calling on a wider study and equality impact assessment to understand the realities on the wider UK population, requesting for a meeting to share case studies and evidence on how HRA benefits the people we support every day through public authority independent scrutiny and mitigates often wider escalations in the legal process.

“Scrapping the Human Rights Act would be detrimental to our beneficiaries, public authorities and wreak havoc with the framework of other intersecting rights laws and codes of practices.

“The current laws protect everyone in the UK no matter who they are or what their own situation may be. The proposed reforms would significantly reduce the legal responsibilities the Government currently has towards us and diminish mechanisms for our collective Charity beneficiaries to hold public services accountable and to be treated as equal people.”

“The proposed Bill of Rights would offer opt-outs to public authorities to pick and choose whose rights they supported and if/when they supported those rights. Many of the people we support are socially excluded, vulnerable and/or marginalised.”

The open letter ends: “Our society remains unfair and unequal – the millions of people who sought support through our Charities should serve as a significant reminder that the Human Rights Act 1998 and other protection laws are not currently being necessarily always upheld by local and central government bodies. Independent scrutiny, challenge, and freedom for people to empower themselves is a fundamental part of our society and democracy.”

Organiser Helen Moulinos said: “As charity leaders we see inequality every day and often support people, empower them, educate them to know their rights, options and insist they are treated as equal people in our society. Sadly, our society remains unfair and unequal – the millions of people who sought support through our Charities should serve as significant reminder that the Human Rights Act 1998 and other protection laws are not currently being necessarily always upheld by local and central government bodies.

“Independent scrutiny, challenge, and freedom for people to empower themselves is a fundamental part of our society and democracy. Thanks to the Human Rights Act as advocates, we are able to independently challenge public authorities that support us in our everyday lives. The Human Rights Act is for all of, everyone single one of us. To lose the Human Rights Act would be a great loss for the people of the UK and set us back decades in time.”

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