Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

40.  Memorandum from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)

  1.  The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) is the largest organisation providing services for blind and partially sighted people in the UK. RNIB challenges the disabling effects of sight loss by providing information and practical services to enable people to pursue their own lives. We provide information, advice and, in certain cases, representation in cases involving the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Human Rights Act.

  2.  RNIB strongly supports the creation of a Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Act requires a body to oversee its implementation and to foster a human rights culture in the UK. Blind and partially sighted people are often unable to pursue legitimate cases under the Human Rights Act because they do not have access to adequate legal advice or the resources to take up such a case themselves. They are also particularly hampered because the Disability Rights Commission cannot pursue such cases.

  3.  The Human Rights Commission should be independent of government and be adequately resourced to carry out its functions.

  4.  The Commission's key functions, in order of priority, should be:

    —  Promoting awareness of human rights.

    —  Providing advice and assistance to individuals and groups who believe that their human rights have been infringed.

    —  Providing advice and training to organisations to enable them to conform to the Human Rights Act.

    —  To monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the Human Rights Act, and to advise the Government of the necessity for its revision.

    —  To conduct formal investigations into public bodies who are believed to have contravened the Human Rights Act.

  5.  There should be a separate Human Rights Commission for Scotland, in view of the fact that the Human Rights Act specifically covers the Scottish Parliament and the Executive independently of its application to UK and GB institutions. This Commission should work closely with its UK counterpart.

  6.  A Human Rights Commission should not perform the functions of the existing specialist commissions. The question of a Single Equality Act and a Single Equality Commission should be treated separately from that of a Human Rights Commission whose focus should be on the Human Rights Act, as opposed to the various equality statutes. RNIB is opposed to the creation of a single Equality Commission at this stage. However, it is clear that a Human Rights Commission should work closely with the existing equality and other commissions.

  7.  There are a number of cases however—and RNIB is already dealing with one such case—where issues involving both the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Human Rights Act arise. RNIB believes that the Disability Rights Commission should have its powers extended so that it can take up cases where a Human Rights Act element is involved. Both the DRC and the Human Rights Commission should work closely on the promoting of equality and human rights for disabled people.

2 July 2001

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