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Where do my rights apply?

Cost of Living

As we face one of the most severe cost-of-living crises the UK has ever seen, it’s more important than ever that people are supported to know and claim their rights. Equally, it’s important that those in positions of public power are held accountable when they breach or fail to respect our human rights. Equally, it’s important that those in positions of public power are held accountable when they breach or fail to respect our human rights.

The cost-of-living crisis "refers to the fall in ‘real’ disposable incomes (that is, adjusted for inflation and after taxes and benefits) that the UK has experienced since late 2021" (Institute for Government). In real terms, it means many people across the UK will have to choose between feeding themselves and heating their homes this winter. Some will not be able to afford either.

The HRA is a powerful tool in ensuring people are treated with dignity, respect and without discrimination. It protects our rights when accessing social security, housing, healthcare and helps us secure adequate standards of living, and fair wages.

Key information

Who is this for:
Individuals and communities

Last updated
22nd November 2022

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Real life stories

The right to life may be at risk when the actions or inactions of a public body contribute to someone’s death

In 2017, Jodey died by suicide after her disability payments were stopped because she missed a work capability assessment. Jodey had been receiving disability benefits for more than 10 years and told the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) she hadn’t received a letter about the assessment. The decision to stop her benefits was overturned five weeks after Jodey died. Jodey’s mum, Joy, said the DWP’s handling of Jodey’s case contributed to her death and breached her Article 2 right to life. However, the first inquest into Jodey’s death lasted just 37 minutes and did not investigate the DWP’s role. Joy asked the High Court to order a second inquest, but this was initially denied. However, the Court of Appeal has now granted her permission to appeal this decision so her case will be heard. 

The right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment may be at risk when someone in particularly vulnerable circumstances is at risk of being street homeless.

DMA and four others were seeking asylum and all had various mental and physical health conditions. They were accepted by the Home Office to be entitled to accommodation and financial support because they otherwise faced destitution and inhuman or degrading treatment. The Home Office had hired private companies to provide these services, but were not monitoring how they were carrying them out. DMA and the others were all left homeless for long periods and had to rely on help from charities, churches and individuals for food and places to sleep. The court found that by not monitoring the services, the Home Office had breached its duty to provide support as it could not simply “contract out” its responsibilities.

The right to a fair trial may be at risk when people are not given the chance to appeal benefit and support decisions.

Daniel applied to receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) but was refused after a medical exam. Daniel asked the Job Centre to contact his GP to help him gather evidence but they did not. Daniel appealed the refusal and the case went to the First-Tier Tribunal. Daniel asked the Job Centre for advice and they told him not to do anything. The appeal carried on without him but he would have had a better chance of success if he had sought legal advice and appeared at court. The First-Tier Tribunal agreed with the Job Centre’s decision. The Upper Tribunal later found that the Job Centre had given him bad advice, and this had impacted the case and breached his Article 6 rights. The decision was set aside and had to be made again following a fair procedure.

The right to private and family life may be at risk when decisions made by social housing providers make it hard for families to stay together or for people to stay in their home. It can also apply when coverage of these issues impacts people’s dignity and privacy.

Shakir and Shahida were a married couple with two teenage children. Channel 5 ran a programme showing them being evicted from their home. Shakir was woken up by bailiffs and a film crew entering his home and telling him he had an hour to leave. He tried to object to them filming but was ignored. He then said he didn’t want it to be shown on television. Shahida also said she didn’t want to be filmed. After the programme was aired, the children were bullied at school. Channel 5 argued that they were entitled to make the programme as part of their Article 10 right to expression because there was a public interest in the subject, but the court said they went beyond what was necessary to meet this interest by including private information about the family. The court also pointed out that the fact the family were given no notice of the eviction and had to go to the council to get emergency accommodation was a matter of public interest but was not included in the programme. The court held that Channel 5 had breached the family’s right to privacy and awarded them compensation.

The right to be free from discrimination may be at risk when people are disproportionately affected by decisions or policies because of a status or characteristic they have.

Steve had been living with his partner for ten years and they had two young daughters together. His partner, and the girls’ mum, died of breast cancer in 2018. But when Steve applied for Bereavement Support Payment, it was refused because Steve and his partner were not married or in a civil partnership. Steve challenged this in court and the judge held that treating grieving families differently based on marital status was a discriminatory interference with their right to property (the Bereavement Support Payment).

The right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions may be at risk when public authorities unfairly deny someone access to housing or benefits payments, which have been found by courts to be “possessions”.

Craig’s son, Cameron, had severe disabilities and both his parents had to give up their work to care for him. Cameron was admitted to hospital for symptoms of chronic bowel obstruction and remained there for over one year, with one of his parents with him at all and remaining as his primary caregivers. His parents had to pay for travel and other expenses during this time which came to around £8,000. However, the DWP had a policy of stopping children’s Disability Living Allowance payments after 84 days in hospital. This caused the family financial hardship and the Supreme Court found it was a breach of their right to possessions as well as their rights to family life and to be free from discrimination. Parliament decided to change the rules as a result.

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