20 March 2018

70 years ago the world came together to set down the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the rights we should all enjoy simply because we are human. This year we'll be celebrating universal human rights, and bringing them home in the Human Rights Act which also marks its 20th anniversary. Join us in the celebrations and sign our digital birthday card for universal human rights here. Read on to learn more about what these rights mean in our everyday lives...

The right to respect for private and family life was set down in Article 12 UDHR and is now protected by UK law through Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. 

There are four key parts of the right, as explained below:

Private life

This right protects:

  • private information, including access to personal information and to have that information confidential
  • wellbeing, including physical and mental health
  • autonomy, which is about having control over your own body and life, and being able to participate in decisions about yourself (eg in your care and treatment)
  • being able to participate in the life of your community

Family life

This means that you have the right to develop family relationships and to maintain contact with your family. 

Home

This is not a right to housing, but a right to respect for the home that you already have. Your right to home, therefore, covers the place that you consider to be your home, such as a care home or a caravan, if you've been living there a long time and have established a connection to that place. This right protects you from your home life being interfered with, eg unlawful surveillance, arbitrary evictions, or being removed from your home to receive health or care services. 

Correspondence 

This right covers all forms of communications, for example letters, emails and phone calls. It protects the right to communicate with people and to have that communication as private. 

This right can be restricted in certain circumstances

The right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence can be restricted in certain circumstances. If a public official needs to interfere with this right, they must show that interference is: 

  1. lawful: there must be a law that allows officials to take that action
  2. legitimate: there must be a legitimate aim the public official is trying to achieve (eg public safety) 
  3. necessary: all alternative ways of achieving the aim must have been considered and the one chosen must be proportionate

All three parts of this test must be met for a public official to justify interfering with your right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. 

In real life: being able to participate in the community as a gay disabled man

Alfie, a gay disabled man, was being supported by the local authority to participate in social activities. Alfie wanted to visit a gay pub, and asked whether a support worker could accompany him. Alfie's request was denied, even though other heterosexual service users were regularly supported to attend pubs and clubs of their choice. Alfie's advocate had been trained by BIHR, and knew that Alfie had a right to respect for private life, which includes being able to participate in the community. Alfie also had a right not to discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation. Alfie's advocate decided to challenge the local authority's decision. 

(Real life example from BIHR, The Human Rights Act: Changing Lives, 2nd edition)

In real life: stopping dawn raids at an accommodation facility for people seeking asylum

Home office staff began conducting unannounced early morning visits at an accommodation facility for newly arrived asylum seekers. The visits took place at dawn and no interpreters were present. Asylum seekers were woken and made to answer questions. Often those being interviewed had only had a few hours sleep, after arriving at the facility very late at night. A voluntary sector organisation, having received human rights training from BIHR and legal advice from Liberty, challenged this practice on the basis that it interfered with the asylum seekers’ right to respect for private life. They argued that there were other, more dignified ways to verify who was staying at the facility and for how long. The arguments were successful and the Home Office ceased the practice of these unannounced dawn visits.

(Real life example from BIHR, The Human Rights Act: Changing Lives, 2nd edition)

In real life: avoiding relocation and staying together as a community

Sandeep lived in residential accommodation in Newport Pagnell with David and Sally, but they were funded by Hackney Council, their home authority. Hackney Council were going through budget cuts and felt it would be cheaper to bring people to units in their area, even though Sandeep, David and Sally had been settled outside of Hackney for several years.

Sandeep was supported by his Independent Mental Health Advocate to argue that their relocation might interfere with their right to respect for home and family life as they were living as a community or ‘family’ together and had a right to be consulted about the re-location. Following this negotiation using the Human Rights Act, the council decided not to move them. 

(Real life example from BIHR, The Difference It Makes: Putting Human Rights at the Heart of Health and Social Care, 2014

Take action, join in!

Show your support and sign our digital 70th birthday card for universal human rights here - it's a quick and simple way to have your voice heard and join others across the UK.

Remember we're running a digital campaign between 14 - 23 March; follow the discussion on social media using #MarchforHumanRights and #celebrating70. We'd love for you to join the conversation.

Check out our 70 years of universal human rights hub for more ways to join in.