News from BIHR

BIHR Evidence to the JCHR Inquiry

Throughout July, we were busy gathering evidence through our Communities of Practice platform, surveys and our direct work across the UK. Our policy responses are directly informed by people’s real-life experiences of the issues, drawn from our work to support people to benefit from their human rights in their daily experiences.

To focus our work, we collected evidence from three groups we work with:

  1. People accessing (or trying to access) health and care;
  2. Staff working in health and care during Covid-19; and
  3. Advocates and campaigners

We are very excited to have last week published our full reports on the impact of the Government’s response to the Covid-19 for people with care and support needs, with easy read versions of all three reports available too. They make for worrying reading, shining a spotlight on the realities of Covid-19 focussed changes to law, policy and access to care and treatment for people with support needs.

You can access all three reports and easy read versions here.

We’re pleased that our reports were the focus of an article in Community Care this week: ‘Social care staff not given human rights training to deal with Covid impact, finds research’.

 

Our Response to the Use of Emergency Powers in Scotland

In June, the first report to the Scottish Parliament on the use of Emergency Powers was published. We, and other organisations, wrote to the Scottish Parliament Equalities and Human Rights Committee to raise our human rights concerns around the use of Emergency Powers in Scotland.

 
On 11 August 2020, the Scottish Government published Coronavirus Acts: second report to Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government implemented some of the changes we called for – for example, the first report did not state which local authorities in Scotland were using the Emergency Powers. This has been addressed in the second report, and the local authorities who were using the Powers during the monitoring period were listed. Although the second report shows that some of the concerns of BIHR and others have been taken on board, there is still much more to be done to ensure that people accessing (or trying to access) care and support in Scotland have their human rights protected, respected and fulfilled.

You can read our Response to the Second Report here, including our call to action.

You can read more about our work on the use of Emergency Powers in Scotland here.

 

Our Human Rights Sessions

Our August was very busy indeed with lots of human rights sessions, delivered to Local Councils or in partnership with other organisations. We really enjoy delivering human rights sessions as a chance to engage with lots of different groups of people across the country and help them understand more about human rights and what they mean.

September is no different! This week we’ve had a great time working with #Right2Home to test a new co-produced tool aiming to empower family/friends of loved ones who are autistic and/or have learning disabilities to challenge unlawful visiting restrictions. We ran one workshop last week with people facing such restrictions, and a second workshop this week. With Covid-19 resulting in blanket ban visiting policies and other concerning practices, we’re pleased to be involved in testing this very important piece of work.

We’ll also be delivering human rights sessions with lots of different groups in September, including:

 

Explainers

Read our latest Explainer! This one is all about judicial review – a really powerful legal tool everyday people have to hold the Government and public bodies to account.  If you’re keen to understand what judicial review is and hear more about the UK Government’s new panel which is reviewing judicial review, then this one’s for you. You can read it here!

We also have a new set of Explainers on the laws on face coverings across the UK. We know it can be confusing understanding where and when you have to where a face covering, and who is exempt – especially when it’s different in all four nations of the UK! Hopefully our Explainers will help – find them all here.

 

News from Elsewhere...

  1. Custody time limit to be increased to ease court case backlog in England

“Unconvicted defendants awaiting trial in prison face longer stints behind bars, as ministers plan to increase custody time limits to ease the pressure of a rising backlog of court cases, the Guardian understands.

The coronavirus lockdown temporarily halted jury trials in March and despite the government creating “nightingale” courts there are more than 500,000 cases yet to be heard in magistrates and crown courts, an increase of about 100,000 on pre-pandemic levels.”

The Guardian, 6 September 2020

 

  1. Government confirms most lapsed children in care duties will be restored, before latest legal hearing

“The government has confirmed that the bulk of the children in care duties removed during the lockdown will be restored this month, as the challenge against the changes returns to court tomorrow (4 September).

The Court of Appeal will hear charity Article 39’s bid to quash the amendments, introduced during the spring peak of the coronavirus crisis, after the government announced it would retain a small number of the changes until March 2021 and ditch the rest on 25 September, as planned.”

Community Care, 3 September 2020 (please note: this article is from last week)

 

  1. DHSC MCA/DoLS guidance updated – in particular about face to face assessment

“The DHSC’s MCA/DoLS guidance has been updated on 7 September, in particular to make clear that remote assessment is not now expected to be the sole way of proceeding.”

Mental Capacity Law and Policy, 7 September 2020

You can view all relevant Department of Health and Social Care guidance on the Coronavirus (COVID-19): looking after people who lack mental capacity page.

 

  1. Social care staff not given human rights training to deal with Covid impact, finds research

“Many social care professionals have not received legal training or information about upholding human rights or using emergency powers during the Covid-19 pandemic, new research suggests.

The British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR), which carried out the research, said the findings were “very concerning” because of the significant changes to law and working practices during the coronavirus crisis. The organisation surveyed 230 health and social care staff, representatives from advocacy groups and charities, and people with care and support needs and their carers, and the research also drew upon the BIHR’s work during the pandemic with 950 staff and 400 people using services.”

Community Care, 8 September 2020

 

  1. Coronavirus: Court plan will not ease delays, lawyers warn

“Hundreds of thousands of people may wait until 2022 for justice despite a government announcement to speed up work in the Crown Courts, lawyers warn.

Ministers unveiled measures - including holding suspects for longer in England and Wales - in an attempt to manage pressure on courts amid the pandemic.

But critics say delays in criminal courts are entirely of the government's making and pre-date coronavirus.

More than 9,000 trials have been put back since the UK went into lockdown.”

BBC News, 6 September 2020

 

  1. Grammar school discriminated against visually impaired child, tribunal finds

 “Grammar schools in England will have to ensure their 11-plus entrance exams are accessible to disabled pupils, after a legal ruling found a visually impaired child suffered discrimination when he was refused the opportunity to take the exam.

 

The boy had applied for entry to Reading School, an academy with grammar school status in Berkshire. But he was unable to sit the 11-plus because adjustments needed for him to take the exam, including the use of larger type on the exam questions, were not carried out.”

 The Guardian, 9 September 2020

 

  1. Rights campaigners urge government not to use peace process as Brexit ‘bargaining chip’

“Human rights campaigners have warned the UK government not to use the Northern Ireland peace process as a “bargaining chip” in the latest round of Brexit negotiations.

The intervention comes after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs yesterday that provisions in the Internal Market Bill would “break international law in a very specific and limited way”.

Kevin Hanratty, director of the Human Rights Consortium in Northern Ireland, said the government’s willingness to break the law “has a direct and clearly worrying impact on the future application of the Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol”.”

Irish Legal News, 9 September 2020

 

  1. Care home visits guidance in England is unlawful, charity claims

“Campaigners working to persuade the government to reinstate care home visits have challenged the legality of recent guidance that they say has spread chaos and caused suffering to some of the country’s most vulnerable people.

Julia Jones and Nicci Gerrard, the co-founders of John’s Campaign, argue that a fundamental violation of human rights has been taking place in care homes across England for the past six weeks.

They say the guidance issued by the Department of Health and Social Care on 22 July, advising care homes on creating their own visiting policies with an aim of reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission and preventing future outbreaks, has led to homes implementing blanket bans on visits.”

The Guardian, 9 September 2020