Shelly Turton, Development Advocate at Pembrokeshire People First, blogs about the importance – and usefulness – of the Human Rights Act to their work, as part of BIHR’s March for Human Rights campaign. Pembrokeshire People First is a charity run by and for adults with learning disabilities and/or autism.


Having fled England for the brave new world of Pembrokeshire, I found employment as a development advocate with Pembrokeshire People First. I had a naively optimistic view that everything must work so well here because Pembrokeshire folk are just lovely. As Karen and Pete wiped away tears of laughter, I set to work on how we could make human rights, as well as other legal frameworks, even more accessible to the advocacy team and beyond.

Now, it’s no secret that Pembrokeshire People First loves human rights. Our members feel passionately about the Human Rights Act – “it’s the only law that is totally about me. It’s got me in the title – because I’m a human!” – and have worked on projects, responded to consultations, and produced everything from bunting to an art exhibition highlighting how important their rights are to them. And a close working relationship with the BIHR is central to Pembrokeshire People First’s core values.

So, the question for us was how to embed it into our thinking process when working with partners and for it to become second nature, something we consider with each advocacy partnership - and not just when its a hit you in the face you see it going all the way to Strasbourg kind of injustice… the first step for this is to start talking. Sounds shockingly obvious doesn’t it, but you would be amazed at how difficult this is if you don’t make the time. Just discussing our partnerships and sharing ideas and thoughts regarding responsibilities of public bodies and the possible failings, started to quickly open up a new way of thinking. With that came a stronger urge to keep thinking in this way, to keep learning how we may better support our partners not just with the Prima Facie issues but to help them understand the wider impact on their rights.

We don’t stand on a soapbox wearing “I heart human rights” t-shirts of course (except Karen occasionally) but we now do something much more important, which is to understand and appreciate the role that human rights has when advocating/working with individuals to access support and indeed change. The resources by BIHR have been invaluable in achieving this and we have even used the Mental Health, Mental Capacity and Human Rights guides to frame workshops with our members and work through real life issues using the flow charts.

I’m now looking forward to the BIHR's new Learning Disability, Autism and Human Rights resource so that we have more tools to play with!

Image: Gail from Pembrokeshire People First at our March for Human Rights tour event in Cardigan, Wales. Find out how you can get involved with our #alrightwithhumanrights action