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A guide for voluntary and community groups

How to get the most out of this guide. I work/am involved with a voluntary/community sector organisation and I would like to find out more about human rights and how it is relevant to my work.

I know quite a bit about human rights but I’m not sure how to apply them in my work – go to p.8 to read about our Human Rights in the Community Pilot Projects and how human rights helped them in their work.


I’m a beginner and would like to start with the basics – go to p.5 where you can get to grips with human rights in just 5 minutes!

I would like to find out more about how to use human rights in our policy and campaigns work – go to p.19 where you will find top tips on how to use human rights in policy and campaigns as well as examples of how other organisations have used human rights to push for change.

or I would like to find out more about how to use human rights in our practice based work – go to p.16 where you will find top tips on how to use human rights in practice as well as examples of how other organisations have used human rights in their day to day work.

This is all really useful stuff! Where can I find out more?

Go to p.12 to find out about our Human Rights Tour and how you can get involved.

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Go to p.22 to find out about how you can act to protect our human rights.

Human rights and the voluntary sector are natural allies. We are fortunate here in the UK to have a vibrant voluntary sector. Across the UK, organisations small and large, national and local, are working to support individuals and groups whose voice is seldom heard and whose lives are blighted by poverty, disadvantage, discrimination and injustice. In these tough economic times the demands for the sector’s services are growing each day, just as vital funding and resources are dwindling. Yet we continue to support and stand up for those who risk being left behind by government initiatives and by the obvious injustices of austerity. At the British Institute of Human Rights, we try to support the work of the voluntary sector by enabling them to use human rights to bring about change. The natural affinity between human rights and the work of the voluntary sector provides a unique opportunity. Human rights recognise that every human being is worthy of respect, and that our system of laws have to protect all of us from the risk of neglect or abuse at the hands of powerful officials. Understanding how human rights work, and how they can be applied to everyday interactions with public services such as health, social services, education, policing and more, can and does make a real difference. Over the last three years, our work has focussed on building the capacity and confidence of voluntary sector organisations to understand and apply human rights in their work. We have toured the UK, visiting large cities and small towns, to provide free information and training on human rights. We have supported partner organisations, big and small, to develop the way they use human rights to protect the people they support from neglect, or even worse, abuse. We have encouraged a broad coalition of groups to stand up and defend human rights when they are subjected to unfair attacks. We have been gratified, if not sometimes slightly overwhelmed, by the enthusiasm and commitment that exists across the UK to make human rights happen.

Stephen Bowen, Director British Institute of Human Rights 3

A note from the Project Co-ordinator The aim of the Human Rights in the Community Project was to take human rights out of the courtrooms and into communities. We know from our work at BIHR that the simple fact of knowing about human rights can have a real impact on the ground; but too few people know about their rights or how rights can be useful. The Human Rights in the Community Project sought to bridge this gap between knowing human rights are relevant to your work, but not knowing enough about them to practically apply them in your work. So how did we do this? We took two approaches, one was to work intensively with a small number of organisations and explore how human rights could help them in their work. We developed a work programme with each of the pilot projects, looking at the work they were already doing, and how they could use human rights to make that work better. The other approach we took was to get knowledge and information about human rights out to the ‘community en masse’. We did this by developing our hugely successful Human Rights Tour. In 2011 we launched the first ever Tour, supported by this project, taking to the roads to put on free to attend events on human rights across the UK. Our tagline was 16 cities in 16 weeks to celebrate the 16 rights in the Human Rights Act. The Tour has been a real success story, and we plan to continue taking human rights on tour after the project finishes. You can read more about the places we visited and some of the inspiring people we met along the way on page 12. What have we learnt here at BIHR whilst working on the Community project? It has reaffirmed for us the difference human rights can make to people’s lives. We have encountered so many inspiring community organisations, who are working in often difficult circumstances, where human rights has had a small but lasting impact on the work they do. We have also learnt human rights are more relevant now than they have ever been. Often people assume that human rights are an ‘added extra’ that falls off the agenda when there are other battles to be fought; but the Community project has illustrated that this is precisely when human rights are most useful.They can become part of your toolbox to fight some of these battles! The Community project has also confirmed for us that these changes don’t happen overnight. The project has highlighted how human rights are not a quick fix to systemic problems, they can make a real and lasting difference but this difference may be subtle and it may take time. Something that has become most apparent is that lots of organisations are working towards putting human rights into practice even if it’s called something else. There is often a natural assumption that adopting a ‘human rights based approach’ to your work requires the time and resources that are so scarce in these difficult times. The good news is that most organisations are halfway there, working on human rights issues of inequality and social justice, you are well rehearsed in what it means to treat people as human beings with individual needs and circumstances. The groundwork has already been laid, now is the time to build on it.

Sophie Howes, Project Co-ordinator British Institute of Human Rights

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5 reasons why voluntary and community organisations should know about human rights. 1. Because the issues you work on are human rights issues

2. H  uman rights can help us all become better at what we do

Most organisations are working to achieve positive change in their communities, usually by reducing inequality and working towards social justice in some form. These are human rights issues! The day to day work of the voluntary sector usually involves helping people to access their rights, whether this is a right to an education, a right to a family life, or a right not to be discriminated against. In this way you are already ‘doing human rights’ the next step is to find out a bit more about human rights and how they might support you in your work.

Voluntary and community sector organisations often support people in our communities to access services, and quite often they are service providers themselves. The sector has a unique role in driving up standards by acting as both a monitor to public services that should be respecting our rights in all that they do (as outlined in the Human Rights Act) but also by making sure our own house is in order by ensuring the services we deliver are meeting human rights standards.

3. Human rights are empowering

4. Human rights give you negotiating power

5. H  uman rights can help fill the gaps

Knowledge of human rights can be hugely empowering for the people you work with. The simple realisation that we are all individuals with rights that should be respected can be really significant, particularly for the most marginalised in our communities, who often have a high level of interaction with public services. A little bit of knowledge about rights can go a long way, as people begin to change conversations with service providers from one about their ‘needs’ to one about their ‘rights’, giving people a little bit of power in an otherwise disempowering situation.

The Human Rights Act clearly states that public authorities have a duty to respect our rights in everything that they do. This can be a powerful influencing tool the sector can use to challenge and change decision making at all levels, from an individual case right up to government policy affecting the whole nation. Human rights give you another way to make your voice heard, and because they are backed up by law your concerns must be taken seriously.

It is a common misunderstanding that we don’t need human rights, because there are lots of other laws that protect our human rights. Whilst it is true that there are many other laws that will apply to human rights situations, for example in mental health cases or situations involving children, it is important to remember that the Human Rights Act is like an umbrella for these laws. This means that human rights can help join up various laws and help us understand what they mean in practice. It is also worth noting that no law is perfect and there are some very real gaps in our legal protections, in many cases the Human Rights Act can plug these gaps and offer some form of protection. 5

Human Rights in 5 minutes! What are human rights?

Human rights law

How do human rights work?

Human rights are a set of basic rights and freedoms that we have because we are human. These rights apply to everyone; we are born with them, and although they can sometimes be limited or restricted, they cannot be taken away.

Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is very well known and carries lots of moral force it isn’t a legally binding document. In the UK there are two key pieces of human rights law we should all know about, the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, and the UK Human Rights Act 1998.

Every individual in the UK has the rights set out in the Human Rights Act. Some of those rights can be limited or restricted in certain circumstances. For example our right to freedom of expression can be limited if you use this right to incite violence against someone else; these rights are known as non-absolute or qualified rights. A small number of rights in the Human Rights Act are regarded as absolute, such as our right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way. There are no circumstances where it is acceptable to restrict absolute rights, but that also means for something to be considered a violation of these rights it must be very serious.

They are based on the idea that no government is above the law, and even governments need a set of rules. In this way human rights act as a set of minimum standards that outline how the government should treat us.

Where do they come from? In their most basic form human rights come from our shared values; values such as dignity, equality and fairness that have evolved over time. Human rights have a long history; they have roots in the major world religions, civilisations and historical events. For example, the abolition of slavery has contributed to the idea of non-discrimination, a key human rights principle. Our modern understanding of human rights is shaped by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. The atrocities of the Second World War demonstrated to the world what a government can do to its own people when there are no limits on state power. After the war ended prominent figures from around the world came together to draft a charter that set out our basic rights and freedoms as human beings. It set the limits below which no state should go.

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Developed by the UK and others in the aftermath of the Second World War, the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 (ECHR) seeks to ensure peace, democracy and the rule of law by giving every individual in Europe a set of rights and freedoms. Since 1966 individuals in the UK have been able to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights if they believe their human rights have been violated. The Human Rights Act 1998 brought the rights in the ECHR into our domestic UK law. This made our rights more accessible as we no longer have to go to the European Court to have our case heard; instead we can bring a case here in the UK. It also aimed to promote a ‘culture of human rights’ by making sure that basic human rights underpin the workings of government. It does this by placing a duty on public authorities to respect and protect our human rights in everything that they do.

Public authorities have a duty to respect and protect our human rights in everything that they do. They may need to limit or restrict people’s non-absolute rights in certain circumstances, however they must clearly demonstrate that these restrictions are necessary and the action taken is proportionate. For example health professionals may need to restrict a person’s liberty by “sectioning” them to keep them safe, but they must only do this if it is absolutely necessary, and in a way that respects their rights. The duty that applies to public authorities is important because it makes them legally accountable for the decisions they make. They must show how they have considered an individual’s human rights.

This means human rights can be an important tool for protecting people in vulnerable situations, such as older people, children in care, and people with mental health problems. It is particularly useful for people who are likely to have a high amount of interaction with public authorities but are often the most marginalised. Human rights can provide another way to challenge poor decisions made by public authorities that are likely to have a severe impact on people’s lives. This could be in situations involving one person, or whole communities. The point is that human rights can be used by voluntary and community organisations seeking to make sure people’s basic rights and freedoms are being respected.

The rights contained in the Human Rights Act are: Article 2: Right to life Article 3: Right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way

Article 10: Right to freedom of expression Article 11: Right to freedom of assembly and association

Article 4: Right to be free from slavery or forced labour

Article 12: Right to marry and found a family

Article 5: Right to liberty

Article 14: Right not be discriminated against in relation to any of the rights contained in the European Convention

Article 6: Right to a fair trial Article 7: Right not to be punished for something which wasn’t against the law

Article 1, Protocol 1: Right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions

Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence

Article 2, Protocol 1: Right to education

Article 9: Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Article 1, Protocol 13: Abolition of the death penalty

Article 3, Protocol 1: Right to free elections 7

Pilot Project: Arcadea. Arts and culture for disabled people in the North East of England.

Note from Arcadea Arcadea’s involvement in the Human Rights in the Community Project has been an incredibly valuable experience. Knowledge of the Human Rights Act is a useful tool that has allowed us to advise and inform the people we work with in a far broader sense than we used to. We have used the arts as a creative way to engage people and raise awareness. This has enabled us to help a wide range of people to become aware of their rights and how they are not only relevant to, but can also be used to improve, their everyday lives. Human rights are particularly important to this sector as disabled people can all too often find themselves marginalised or overlooked. Knowledge of their rights has been key in giving people the confidence to voice their concerns, along with providing a language that allows these concerns to be communicated effectively. Katy Saunderson General Manager Arcadea

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Stage one BIHR trained Arcadea board members, staff, and a group of disabled artists on human rights. Our sessions focused on how the Human Rights Act works and the rights that are particularly relevant for disabled people. The group felt that knowing more about human rights could make a real difference to disabled people, but they also identified a lack of accessible information out there. Arcadea decided to get the message out about human rights and how they can be useful to disabled people using the arts.

THIS WAY Arcadea are busy publicising the films they made about rights, in order to help other groups engage disabled people in conversations about rights. Arcadea are also working with project partners SYMO to apply for funding to make an accessible guide to the Human Rights Act for learning disabled people. Keep a look out! •

Stage two Arcadea used a variety of different creative methods to enable the people they work with to become more aware of their rights. A group of disabled artists held community art workshops with disabled people about human rights and created rights related art work which was featured in an exhibition at Newcastle’s famous Life Centre. Arcadea worked with local partners SYMO (a film production company that is run by and for disabled people) to make a number of films about human rights with a group of disabled people. They also made human rights bunting, which BIHR took on the Human Rights Tour 2012. 9

Pilot Project: N-compass.

Advocacy services for carers in the North West of England.

Note from N-compass It has been really valuable for us to be part of this project. Our advocates, and advocates from our partner organisations, received training from BIHR that helped them to understand how they could use human rights legislation within their practice, for the benefit of our clients. Since then advocates have been keeping case studies of when they have used the legislation within cases and where they can see it applies. It’s surprising how many there are, and they are prompting some really interesting discussions in our team case discussions, which is increasing the advocates knowledge even more. Creating the Carers Guide together has also been really useful as we have been able to promote this quite widely locally, generating a lot of interest in the advocacy service and increasing people’s access to the service. We are now also regularly giving the Guide out to our clients and promoting it through our website, increasing local carers understanding of human rights and their ability to confidently self-advocate. I think human rights are so important to the sector we work in as they provide a legal framework to use in our day to day work. They provide weight and substance as we challenge and question the decisions of professionals on behalf of our clients, it means that we are taken seriously and enables us to advocate more effectively on behalf of our clients. Dawn Parkinson Strategy Director N-compass

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Image one BIHR trained staff, advocates and carers on human rights and how to use them to better access services. The training focused specifically on the areas of the Human Rights Act that are particularly relevant to carers, and how carers can use human rights language in discussions with service providers to advocate for themselves or for the person they are caring for. N-compass advocates have had some successes using human rights in client advocacy. For example changes to the welfare system have meant lots of disabled people’s benefits have been reassessed. Where the impact of these changes are having a severe impact on people’s lives advocates have been successfully questioning cuts to benefits on a human rights basis.

WAY OUT N-compass are busy disseminating the Carers guide across the North West to advocacy services, carers groups and other relevant organisations. N-compass hope to continue integrating human rights into their work after the Human Rights in the Community project has finished and are applying for funding to allow them to do this. Watch this space! •

Image two N-compass and BIHR held a consultation with carers. After receiving training and information on human rights carers felt that human rights are really relevant to their caring work and they would like to know more. But carers also identified a lack of accessible information out there about human rights, and nothing that was specific to carers. This spurred N-compass and BIHR into action and together we produced Your Human Rights: A Pocket Guide for Carers – a practical guide on human rights for carers written in everyday language. 11

Human Rights Tour #16 Cities. 16 cities in 16 weeks to mark the 16 rights in the Human Rights Act 11, 871 miles travelled

5,325 cups of tea


bookings taken


pledges about human rights


pieces of bunting decorated

59 speakers

35 events

28 towns and cities visited

15 staff and volunteers

3 children attending


Where did we go? 1. Cardiff 2. Truro 3. Ipswich 4. Bournemouth 5. Brighton 6. Inverness 7. Edinburgh 8. Preston 9. Manchester 10. Belfast 11. Bangor 12. Leicester 13. Boston 14. Sunderland 15. London 16. York 17. Birmingham 18. Bristol 19. Derby 20. Lincoln 21. Mold 22. Norwich 23. Oxford 24. Sheffield 25. Dundee 26. Glasgow 27. Plymouth 28. Newcastle


1 Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner speaking

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Invite the Tour to your town!

If you think we shou ld bring the tour to your town we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with us at or give us a call on 0207 882 5850 an d tell us why we should make a sto p near you.

6 Linda Odd, Inverness HUG Spirit Advocacy – Action for Mental Health All of us, not just some of us are different, and we all need to protect the human rights of everyone.


Matt Tyrer, Edinburgh Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations


Great to welcome the Tour to Scotland’s capital. Some great discussion and a real appetite for more rights work.

26 Helen Flynn, Belfast NGO Campaigner Great day in NI! Working together to protect and defend the Human Rights Act, an integral part of our peace treaty.


28 14

Maria Marsden, Preston East Lancashire Advocacy Service The human rights tour was informative, interesting and action provoking. I now see the significance of Human Rights in ever yday situations.

Sarah Roy, Derby Chesterfield Law Centre


11 21

The Tour keeps the issue of 16 human rights in focus at a time when they are being challenged 24 9 and undermined 20 by the UK government as a matter of policy.


Lesley Clifford, Mold Shelter Cymru Act intact. Lets keep the Human Rights




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ardiff illiams, C Louise W ice o V ’s n me ortance Bristol Wo e the imp m d e w o are tour sh my rights The BIHR ing what w o n k f o r and powe woman. 1 n a n d as a as a h um a

Jennifer Bourne, Truro Specialist Nurse Human rights are universal and we cannot select who they apply to. The BIHR Tour raised my awareness & reinforced this belief for me.



Andy Saunders, Bournemouth Access Dorset The tour captured and promoted how freedom, liber ty and a fair and just society are underpinned by our human rights.


ku, London Juliet Afeju ouncil Hackney C just choices hts are not ig Human R we all have ey are rights rights or gif ts. Th an m eings. Hu as human b l times. tected at al must be pro

Samantha Bond, Brighton Age UK Brighton and Hove


Voluntary orgs work with some of the most vulnerable members of society. In order to support them we must understand the protection offered by human rights. 13

Calum Munro

Ellie Pitman and Georgia Wilson


Organisation: Highland Children’s Forum


Organisation: Millbank Primary School

Tour event attended: Inverness 2012

Tour event attended: Cardiff 2012

We came along to the Human Rights Tour event in Cardiff to interview the director of the British Institute of Human Rights as part of our Rights Respecting Schools Programme. At our school we think rights are really important. We t asked Stephen Bowen lots of questions abou myth gest stran the human rights like what is about human rights he has ever heard, and also whether he thinks parents should have a right to smack their children. We learnt lots about human rights, like how important it is that everyone has human rights. But we want to find out more!

y Mark Caffre ––––

I came to the Tour because the the charity I work for seeks to put n ldre chi of nce erie voice and exp of rt hea the at ple peo and young ser vices decisions about policies and their that are for them, and having t. righ al ent voice heard is a fundam rk wo the e fram Human rights should but tor sec ry nta we do in the volu tool they can also be a really useful and nts me ern gov at wh for reviewing e fram to d use be can and do; ser vices . ges llen key policy questions and cha my to t van rele lly rea as m the I see the of work; and the high calibre learning facilitators and the wonderful rness Inve the at es from other attende d tan ers und me ped Tour event hel ful use and t van rele exactly how human rights can be.

) orities (NIC EM Organisation: l for Ethnic Min ci un Co nd la Nor thern Ire nded: Tour event atte d e was current an 12 Belfast 20 Tour programm

rm my the Tour to info I signed up for munities m co ic minority work with ethn ICEM my work with N at a local level in r Mident Officer for ou as a Developm It is . n regional office Ulster and Dow king or w als and groups to vital for individu w ho sector to know e ng in the voluntary le al ch to hts and how k or access their rig w y m in y a key priorit inequality, and abling pporting and en su is with NICEM fully in es to participate BME communiti rights. accessing their

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The ary together volunt varied, bringing oting om pr tatives and sector represen lenges al ch r la the particu recognition of Northern luntary sector in faced by the vo rong the need for a st Ireland, such as orthern ll of Rights for N and inclusive Bi gly cts our increasin Ireland that refle diverse society.

Sabia Begum, Hasina Khanom and Suria Begum


Tyler Bennetts

Organisation: Hyde Community Action

Organisation: Cornwall Council

Tour event attended: Manchester 2012

Tour event attended: Plymouth 2011 / Truro 2012

Sabia (left): The Tour taught me a lot about my rights that I didn’t know before. It gave me the confi dence to think about which rights are relevant if I need ed help.


I had been to a previous Tour eve nt, and although I have a working knowledge of human rights ther e is always something new and importa nt to learn, as well as being aware of the current threat to the Human Righ ts Act and a desire to keep (and wor k on improving) our human rights legi slation. Cornwall Council has taken hum an rights very seriously and we wor k hard to get the message out to all tho se who work within the sector in the cou nty. The reality is that we need to kno w, as those who work in the sector real ise that providing a service is not eno ugh, we also need to not infringe any one’s rights. It is pointless offering a serv ice because “we care” and then sho wing that we don’t care because of a brea ch. In Cornwall we can at times feel a bit out on a limb, we sometimes feel a long way from government and places of power. By having these events we are reminded we are not alone and ther e are others who care as passionatel y as us about human rights, so thank you for coming all this way to see us!

Hasina (middle): We came along to the Manc hester Tour with a group of women we work with in Hyde. I signed up for the Tour because I wanted to find out more about human rights. It’s really important that women know about their rights and now I know more I can pass this information on to the wom en we work with. Suria (right) – It was my first time on the Tour, I found it really useful! I learnt a lot about my right


David Davis ––––

Organisation: Advice Bureau Ipswich Citizens ed: Tour event attend 12 20 Ipswich

whole range vise people on a people’s At the CAB we ad e issues touch on es th of y an m s, event was of issue man Rights Tour Hu e Th s. ht rig human expand my to reinforce and ty ni rtu po op t ea a gr ell as network man rights, as w hu of e dg le ow kn nge of sectors in king in a whole ra or w le op pe ith w more at the CAB ity. We could do respect my local commun of their duties to es di bo y or ut at st ts Act, and to remind the Human Righ r de un s ht rig s’ p in doing our client a helpful first ste as w ur To e th g attendin to Ipswich. d the Tour came this. Really please 15


How can human rights help? 1. H  uman rights can... empower the people that you work with Awareness of your own rights can be really empowering for people who have been marginalised and made vulnerable. People living in such circumstances are often led to believe that the inequality and discrimination they experience is inevitable and it is no coincidence that these groups of people are most likely to have their rights violated. It is only by supporting people to find out about their rights that we can begin to challenge these violations. The practical value of raising awareness of rights shouldn’t be underestimated. Once people become aware of their rights they can begin to view themselves as individuals with rights that should be protected and respected by powerful bodies that have human rights duties, often those bodies that have treated them poorly or with indifference. This realisation can make a genuinely significant difference for people experiencing discrimination and disadvantage.

2. H  uman rights can... help change the conversation Too often voluntary and community sector organisations spend time and resources supporting vulnerable people to access services they are entitled to. Simply talking about human rights with service providers (often referred to as using human rights language) can help shift the

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conversation from one about needs (where a person is the passive recipient of services or charity) to one about rights (where a person is claiming the services to which they have a right). This can be hugely empowering for individuals and helps redress the power imbalance between service provider and service user. Using human rights to frame your conservations means that service providers no longer act as “gatekeepers� but instead work alongside people to help them claim their rights.

3. Human rights can... encourage best practice within your own organisation Many voluntary and community sector organisations have found that adopting a human rights approach within their own organisation has had a positive impact on their work as service providers. It is widely recognised within the voluntary and community sector that a holistic approach to delivering services leads to better outcomes and experiences for the people we work with. This is exactly what a human rights based approach encourages; services that recognise people as humans with individual circumstances and needs. What it adds is a framework based on universally agreed values backed up by the strength of the law.

Case study one ––––

The organisation: Advocacy Matters The issue: Advocacy for disabled people

How did human rights help? Advocacy Matters are aware that human rights can be a really useful tool in advocacy because of the legal protection the Human Rights Act offers, however their use of human rights was quite limited to specific situations and particular articles in the Human Rights Act. To encourage a

Case study two ––––

The organisation: Praxis Community Projects The issue: Advice and support for migrants and refugees

How did human rights help? Praxis decided to look at how human rights could help them in their work with some of their most vulnerable clients – undocumented migrants and women without recourse to public funds. Praxis saw human rights having a key role in empowering this

broader use of human rights in their work Advocacy Matters delivered training on human rights for their advocates where they discussed each article in the Human Rights Act and how these apply to particular situations they come across in their work. They also appointed a Human Rights Champion within their team to support advocates in discussing the human rights aspects of their case loads. Human rights is also now a standing item at staff meetings. These simple steps have given their advocates the capacity and confidence to use human rights in their work and this has led to some really

group of people, as well as ensuring individuals are able to access services they are entitled to. The first step was to address the lack of awareness about rights among service users and the professionals working in public services who have duties under the Human Rights Act. Praxis provided training for their staff and hosted awareness raising events for the communities they support, to encourage individuals to find out more about their rights. For example they hosted theatre workshops where vulnerable migrant women explored their experiences of contacting social services and how

positive outcomes for their clients. For example, a learning disabled couple were going to be separated by the local authority because of their different care needs but advocates were able to successfully challenge this decision using human rights arguments. By encouraging staff to think more broadly about human rights they have also seen a shift from viewing human rights as all about the individual to using human rights to empower groups of people. For example advocates have supported a group of learning disabled people to find out more about their rights and use this knowledge to challenge closures to their services. they might have responded differently if they had understood their rights. They also offered training for public service professionals on human rights and their obligations as ‘duty bearers’ under the Human Rights Act. Taking steps to educate both service providers and the communities they work with about their respective roles as duty bearers and rights holders under the Human Rights Act made a tangible difference on the ground. Service users felt more empowered in their conversations with service providers, and service providers became more aware of the human rights implications of the decisions they were making. 17

Case study three ––––

The organisation: BHA The issue: Challenging health inequality

Case study four ––––

The organisation: Women in Prison (WIP) The issue: Support and services for women in the criminal justice system

How did human rights help? BHA have been using human rights at a number of different levels to help them in their work challenging health inequalities and supporting individuals to improve their health and well-being. They are working hard to promote the value of human rights within their own organisation; they provided training on human rights to their senior management team to ensure a commitment to human rights was centrally driven. They also trained and supported project managers to find out more about human rights and how they can be useful within their projects.

How did human rights help? Women in Prison used human rights to empower the women they work with, and to encourage service providers that work with women in the criminal justice system to become more aware of their responsibilities as duty bearers under the Human Rights Act. WIP supported their self-advocacy group Women Moving Forward (women in contact with the criminal justice system) to find out more about their rights and how rights can be used to advocate for change. WIP then worked with the group to develop human rights training for service providers. The group

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BHA then utilised voluntary and community sector organisations, particularly black and minority ethnic (BME) organisations, to disseminate information and raise awareness about human rights externally. Human rights are really relevant to the work of BHA and have been used to challenge poor decision making at a local level. For example, Manchester Race & Health Forum and Local Involvement Networks (LINKs – hosted by BHA) challenged decisions taken by public authorities to cease or dramatically change health and social care provision.

co-designed the training which was delivered to key public authorities in London that have duties under the Human Rights Act, including probation officers and housing officers. The training focused on human rights and housing and used a number of different methods to explore what human rights are and why they are relevant to housing. The impact of providing the training was significant, both in the confidence it gave to the women involved but also in raising awareness amongst duty bearers about their responsibilities under the Human Rights Act.

Policy and Campaigns. How can human rights help? 1. H  uman rights can... provide another way to hold decision makers to account Under the Human Rights Act public authorities at all levels have a legal duty to protect and respect our human rights. These human rights obligations provide a clear set of minimum standards which voluntary and community sector organisations can use to hold decision makers to account. Human rights are a powerful influencing tool because they have legal bite. Protecting and respecting our human rights is not something those in power can opt in and out of, there is a legal duty and failure to meet this duty can result in expensive and embarrassing legal action against the government.

2. H  uman rights can... provide access to the decision making process As well as holding decision makers to account, human rights can help ensure that the government considers the impact of law and policy on different groups of people. The obligation to respect and protect our human rights applies to policy making at all levels; from new laws passing through parliament to a policy on a particular issue being developed

by a public authority at a local level. Using human rights voluntary and community sector organisations can seek to influence policy at the point of development and also when a policy is being implemented. Concerns raised about the impact a policy is likely to have on individual human rights must be taken seriously.

3. Human rights can... help unify different groups The common language provided by human rights can help create links across different issues and groups within the voluntary and community sector. This can be really helpful when thinking about how best to campaign for policy change or achieve good practice. It can be particularly useful for bringing different equalities groups together to campaign on a particular issue or for addressing complex issues like multiple discrimination. Human rights can also be a useful tool to resolve potential competing issues between different groups by providing a shared set of principles that can help overcome differences and assist with building networks to effectively campaign for change. 19

Case study five ––––

The organisation: Pembrokeshire People First The issue: Bringing the voice of learning disabled people to government

How did human rights help? Pembrokeshire People First (PPF) supported a group of learning disabled adults to respond to the Bill of Rights Consultation; a complex consultation about the future of our human rights laws. PPF worked with two groups of learning disabled adults to support them to find out more about their rights. PPF started from the basic

Case study six ––––

The organisation: Highland and Islands Equality Forum The issue: Raising awareness of equality and human rights in the Highlands and Islands

How did human rights help? The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation’s Highlands and Islands Equality Forum (HIEF) has been raising awareness of equality and diversity issues in the north of Scotland for over ten years. More recently HIEF has recognised the need to broaden

20 Make Rights Happen

level of understanding what law is, through to the Human Rights Act and how it applies to adults with learning disabilities. They carried out this work over a period of months and in a number of creative ways involving drama, art work and song writing. PPF then invited a number of people from these groups to take part in a consultation event where they looked at the second Bill of Rights consultation, and drafted a collective response, which was submitted to the Bill of Rights Commission for consideration. To our knowledge the response submitted by the group was the only direct contribution from learning disabled people to the Bill of Rights

the conversation from one primarily focused on equality and diversity to one that includes a wider human rights perspective. HIEF is in the early stages of making this transition, and has started to include information about human rights in the training they provide and in their information and materials. They also recently acted as the local partner for the BIHR Inverness Human Rights Tour event. On a more day to day level HIEF are encouraging people to talk more about human rights and how it links to their work. This includes ensuring that human rights are part of the debate around important societal challenges such as welfare reform and social care provision, but also helping organisations to understand

consultation. The individuals involved gained a better understanding of their rights and felt empowered at being part of the process. Too often it is assumed learning disabled people can’t be included in decision making processes, or that their opinion doesn’t matter. The project undertaken by PPF clearly demonstrates that with the right resources even the most marginalised voices can be heard. Just as important, engaging these groups in discussions and decisions about human rights can be hugely empowering for people who experience discrimination and disadvantage.

the practical benefits a rights based approach can bring to the day to day running of an organisation. HIEF is hopeful that this new approach will further strengthen and build the network, as human rights provide a common ground for building links between different organisations that work on different issues. One of the challenges of making the shift from an equality network to an equality and human rights network is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to embed the thinking about human rights into the workings of a network; but simple steps like encouraging people to talk about human rights shouldn’t be underestimated; they can make a small but lasting difference.

Case study seven ––––

The organisation: Irish Traveller Movement in Britain The issue: Campaigning against discrimination and promoting inclusion for Gypsies and Travellers

How did human rights help? The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) have been using human rights standards to raise concerns about the impact of government policies on Traveller communities with considerable success. This has involved mainstreaming references

Case study eight ––––

The organisation: Housing Justice The issue: Services and support for homeless people

How did human rights help? Housing Justice have integrated a human rights based approach into their campaigns work with great success. In 2009 they set up the Homeless Human Rights Action Team, a network of different organisations working with people affected by

to human rights law and language into consultation responses, policy briefings and campaign messages. For example ITMB raised human rights issues in their campaigns work on the proposed eviction of the Traveller Community at Dale Farm. This helped shine a spotlight on the human rights implications of such a large scale eviction and resulted in a significant amount of political and media attention. On an international level ITMB have engaged and worked closely with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Universal Periodic Review and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In 2011 ITMB submitted a shadow report

homelessness in London. The group decided to launch a campaign against Operation Poncho. This was a rigorous enforcement policy in the City of London where police and street washing teams were waking up homeless people and hot washing the areas they were sleeping between the hours of 1am – 4am, causing distress and disturbance to rough sleepers. The Human Rights Action Team found human rights arguments were a powerful influencing tool. As public authorities have legal duties under the Human Rights Act they must seriously consider concerns about human rights. By framing the

to Committee on the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). It was the only UK shadow report to focus specifically on Gypsies and Travellers. This resulted in the Committee issuing a set of strong recommendations to the UK on Gypsy and Traveller issues and calling for the Government to halt the Dale Farm eviction and support a peaceful solution. By including a human rights angle in their policy and campaigns work, ITMB have enabled the voices and experiences of Traveller communities to be heard within decision making processes, a voice which is more difficult to ignore when it is strengthened by human rights arguments. campaign in human rights language, Housing Justice was able to talk about violations of the rights of rough sleepers in their negotiations with government officials. This helped strengthen the case for why these unethical policies must be stopped. Housing Justice and their campaign partners successfully lobbied decision makers and Operation Poncho was put on hold. Since then many of London boroughs have stopped the practice of hot washing. 21

What next for human rights? At BIHR we believe human rights are something to be celebrated. This report demonstrates what a valuable tool human rights can be for voluntary and community groups working to achieve positive change in their communities. They can be used in a number of ways, to influence policy making, in campaigning, and in practice based work in communities. They can be used internally to encourage best practice within your own organisation and externally to encourage public services to become better at what they do. Whether organisations are delivering services, tackling discrimination, or increasing opportunities for the most marginalised, human rights can help drive us forward and achieve positive social change. However this is not a view shared by all. Sadly, our domestic debates about human rights tend to be negative, and often ill-informed. At the time of writing the Government is thinking about whether or not to change our human rights laws. One of the options being considered is to get rid of the Human Rights Act. As the pages of this booklet show, one of the most important lessons of the Human Rights in the Community Project has been to show how much strong support there is out there for human rights and the Human Rights Act in particular. Time and time again

through our work with pilot projects and on our Human Rights Tour we heard stories about how these laws have made a real difference to people’s lives without the need to go to court. Unfortunately these “good news” stories rarely feature in the media headlines and political soundbites on human rights. In response to the current threats to human rights laws, BIHR launched the #Act campaign. Summed up in our slogan – “To keep your Human Rights, Act” – we are calling on people to #Act to protect their human rights. You can find out more and join us by visiting the #Act campaign website

If you believe human rights are something to be celebrated please make your voice heard! There are a number of ways you can do this: ––––

Make your own piece of human rights bunting Do you have a message about human rights you would like to share? If so we would love to receive your bunting to add to our growing collection. We plan to use our human rights bunting in a number of creative ways in 2013! Watch this space. A template and instructions can be found on the back page of this report.

Invite the Human Rights Tour to your town Make the case for why your town or city should be one of our Tour stops in 2013. Do you have a particularly lively voluntary and community sector in your area? Do you have some pressing human rights issues that need tackling? If you think we can run a successful event in your area, do get in touch, we would love to hear why we should bring the Tour to your town. ––––

Tweet about human rights Tell the world why you think human rights are important, in 140 characters or less! Positive dialogue about human rights is so important, and the power of social media is not to be underestimated. Tell your followers all about human rights, and don’t forget to tell us! @BIHRhumanrights ––––

Put Human Rights Day in your diary 10 December is Human 10th Rights Day - help celebrate Dec human rights with others across the world. It’s never too early (or too late!) to start planning something. It could be a single tweet, it could be a human rights themed event; whatever it is make sure you mark it. Check out the BIHR website for ideas, and tell us what you’re up to

Keep in touch with BIHR Sign up to our BIHR newsletter to find out all the latest news on human rights. Also check out our community pages where you will find a wealth of human rights resources specifically for voluntary and community sector organisations: • 22 Make Rights Happen

At BIHR we think that human rights are something to celebrated. Help us spread positive messages about human rights by creating your own piece of human rights bunting! Ideas for your bunting: Get creative with pens, paints, glitter and glue. Add scraps of material, sequins, whatever you can find! –––– Personalise your bunting – demonstrate your support for human rights with your own unique message. –––– Make your bunting identifiable – sending us bunting from the outer Hebrides or inner city London? From your school or workplace? Tell us where your bunting comes from –––– Send your bunting to us at: British Institute of Human Rights, School of Law, Queen Mary University, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS. Please include your contact details so we can add you to our mailing list and keep you updated on what we have done with your bunting. –––– Send us a pic! We would love to have a photo of you with your bunting so we can create a photo collage to show the human faces behind our rights. Please send photos to with your name and contact details.

What happens next? We are planning to use the bunting in a number of creative ways in 2013; this might be a bunting ‘flashmob’ or at events to demonstrate the popular support for human rights within our communities. Please include your details so we can let you know how our bunting is coming together.

Want to find out more? BIHR has produced a number of practical guides on human rights: Human Rights for Community Groups, raising a human rights issue: tips and tools –––– A voluntary and community sector guide to using international human rights –––– Human Rights in your Community – an online guide –––– Your Human Rights: A guide for people living with mental health problems –––– Your Human Rights: A guide for refugees and asylum seekers –––– Your Human Rights: A guide for disabled people –––– Your Human Rights: A Pocket Guide for Carers –––– Your Human Rights: A guide for older people –––– These guides are available to download on the BIHR website:

This guide was developed as part of the Human Rights in the Community project. The project is funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. BIHR would like to thank the Equality and Human Rights Commission for their grant which supported the production of this guide. The BIHR staff team and volunteers would like to thank Melissa Jarram and Grace Park for their illustrations of the pilot project case studies. We would also like to thank all of the organisations and individuals who agreed to feature in this report, helping us to bring human rights to life. Designed by Neo

The British Institute of Human Rights School of Law Queen Mary University London Mile End Road London E1 4NS Tel: 0207 8825850 Email: Web: Registered charity number 1101575 Copyright ©2012 British Institute of Human Rights

Make Human rights happen  

A guide by BiHR outining how Human rights can be used by community and voluntary sector organisations