Human rights are for everyone: over the last year we have examined issues relating to the human rights of a wide range of groups including adults with learning disabilities, asylum seekers, older people in healthcare and children.
In this Report, we provide an overview of our work during the 2007-08 parliamentary session and draw attention to improvements in the human rights landscape of the UK and areas of continuing concern.
Public authorities need to promote human rights to make sure that service users understand their rights and that those rights are respected. The Government should build on its success in establishing the Equality and Human Rights Commission and take further steps to encourage public authorities to promote the human rights of service users.
Laws proposed by Government are not always fully compatible with the Human Rights Act and other international human rights standards. Over the last year we contributed to ensuring that human rights were better protected, particularly in the bills dealing with counter-terrorism, health and social care, criminal justice and immigration and trade union membership.
We played a major role in persuading the Government to change the law so that publicly-funded residents of privately owned care homes would be protected by the Human Rights Act.
Emerging policy: UK Bill of Rights
There is much debate at present about whether the UK needs a Bill of Rights. We believe that it does, and we set out our view for what a UK Bill of Rights should contain in a Report published in August. In particular, we recommend that a UK Bill of Rights should contain economic and social rights, relating, for example, to housing and education. We will pursue follow-up work on this in the coming months.
Children featured in three positive human rights developments. The Secretary of State now has a legal duty to promote the well-being of children, as set out in Children and Young Persons Act 2008; the Government has withdrawn its reservations to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and it is seeking to ratify the Optional Protocol on this Convention to protect children from prostitution, pornography and slavery. We criticised the Government for continuing with the use of restraint in secure training centres, however.
We will, over the next year, inquire into children's rights and carry out follow-up work on human trafficking and asylum seekers. In addition we will scrutinise all Government legislation, focusing on Borders, Immigration and Asylum, Coroners and Justice and Equalities Bills.