On 07 March 2022, one day before the Government’s Consultation on the Human Rights Act was due to close, the Government announced a six week extension to submit responses. This means that the deadline for some people is now the 19 April 2022.

If an Easy Read or audio version of the Consultation would make it easier for you to respond, you can now email [email protected]  to ask for the deadline to be extended to 19 April. This also applies to organisations who represent people who may find an Easy Read or audio version helpful.

There is a new Easy Read and audio version of the consultation on the governments website. If you need to use these, you have to email HRAreform@justice.gov.uk to get an extension until 19 April

Click here for an Easy Read PDF of this information

Last week we took part in two actions about the accessibility of this consultation.

What happened last week?

On 14 December 2021, the Government released a Consultation Paper setting out plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. The Government asked 29 questions to gather people’s views on the plans and gave the public 12 weeks to respond, with the Consultation due to end on 08 March 2022.

The Consultation Paper is 123-pages long and is written in confusing and technical language.

The Government did not release an Easy Read version along with the original Consultation Paper. An “Easy Read” document is one which presents text in an understandable way and was created to help people with learning disabilities access information. The Government’s definition of Easy Read includes that “easy read uses pictures to support the meaning of text”. 

Instead, the Government released a “word-only Easy Read version” of the Consultation Paper on 24 February 2022. This gave people who use this version just 12 days to respond.

"It's disgusting that they have only given us seven days to look at this, but given other people twelve weeks. It's Gobbledygook to me." - Courtney (Member of Pembrokeshire People First Campaigns Group)

There were no images in this version, and it was missing a lot of important context, evidence and information. The Government said it “apologise[s] that it is a text-only version and are working with suppliers to update this".

On 03 March, BIHR wrote to the Joint Committee on Human Rights attaching an Easy Read letter, co-produced with people with learning disabilities. The letter was signed by more than 200 people and organisations who are concerned about the lack of accessibility. These are people with learning disabilities and other communication needs, and the organisations that support them and their rights.

In the letter, people said that the Consultation on the Human Rights Act is important to them and they want to tell the Government what they think. But, they were not happy because the Government had not made any translations of the consultation, like BSL or Easy Read, which would help them to take part.

The letter shared people’s concerns that the UK Government's Easy Read version had lots of problems. For example, it was hard to understand, there were no pictures, and the consultation deadline was not changed for people who need to use the Easy Read translation. In the letter, people asked the Joint Committee on Human Rights to ask the Ministry of Justice about these problems.

Click here to read this letter.

On 04 March 2022 (4 days before the Consultation closed), user-led learning disability campaign group Pembrokeshire People First instructed solicitors Rook Irwin Sweeney to write to the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, about the Government’s failure to provide an Easy Read version of the Human Rights Act Reform Consultation Paper. Pembrokeshire People First are leading a group of organisations run by and for people with learning disabilities in this action, including My Life My Choice, Warrington Speak Up and All Wales People First, supported by the British Institute of Human Rights.

The letter asked the Justice Secretary to produce an amended Easy Read version of the Consultation which has been consulted on by Pembrokeshire People First and other disabled people’s organisations.

It also asked the Justice Secretary to extend the consultation period, so it closes 12 weeks from the date of publication of the amended copy. This would provide people using the Easy Read format with the same amount of time as people using the standard one to participate in the consultation.

As the Consultation was due to close on 8 March 2022, the letter asked the Justice Secretary to urgently respond by 4pm on 7 March 2022.

You can read more about this letter here

What happened next?

At 3.49pm on 7 March 2022, the Ministry of Justice wrote to our solicitors Rook Irwin Sweeney to say that they would be updating us about their actions in response to our letter.

Shortly after, we and others, received an email to say that the Ministry of Justice had released a new Easy Read version with images. This can be found here. They also said there would be a six-week extension for people who requires an Easy Read or audio version of the consultation document to respond. This means that people who would use alternative versions have until the 19 April 2022 to respond. The Government released an audio version on 08 March 2022 which can be found here.

If you would like to share your views on reform to the Human Rights Act and were not able to before because of the lack of accessible versions, you can request an extension, by emailing [email protected]

You can copy and paste the below text in your email to [email protected]:

To the Ministry of Justice,

My name is [your name] and I would like to ask for an extension until 19 April 2022 to share my views on the consultation on Human Rights Act Reform. This is because I need the Easy Read/ audio version [delete one of these options if it is not right for you] of the document to respond.

If I am not allowed this extension, I would like you to tell me the reason why.

Thank you,

[your name]

 

The Government have said that there will be extra roundtable discussions for “clarifying the consultation with disability groups and interested organisations in the coming weeks”. You can read about what happened at the roundtable we attended here.

We will continue to ask the Ministry of Justice to be open and transparent about these roundtables.

"I feel like the voices of people with learning disabilities aren’t heard" - Lucy (Member of Pembrokeshire People First Campaigns Group)

Hear some thoughts about accessibility from participants of BIHR's workshop and surveys in the video below.

What can you do next?

If you get the extension to respond to the Consultation, we have lots of guides and resources to help you respond to the Consultation here.

In February, we hosted an Easy Read Workshop explaining the Consultation. You can watch this workshop here.

You can read our response to the Consultation here.

There are still concerns about the new Easy Read version and the deadline extension not being 12 weeks. We are looking at this with our partners in the learning disability community, and will provide updates on any developments on our website and social media.

TAKE ACTION NOW AND JOIN US: Sign up to our campaign list and be the first to support our upcoming actions to show political leaders why our Human Rights Act matters