Alex Funnell, Intern at BIHR, updates us on a recent radio show about human rights in local communities, featuring the British Institute of Human Rights and our BIHR Human Rights Champion Sam Bond.
More often than not headlines and political sound-bites focus on the idea that “public opinion” sees human rights are being about “other” people, from situations in other countries to so-called “undesirable groups” such as people in prison, or asylum seekers. Last week Radio Free Brighton aired a programme that tells a different story, one about human rights in the community, one which shows that human rights are relevant to all of us.
Sophie Howes, Human Rights Officer at the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR), Sarah Faulkner from Assert Brighton and Hove and Sam Bond from Age UK Brighton all featured on the programme.
Sophie began the programme, talking about BIHR’s Human Rights in the Community project, a three year initiative designed to help plug the human rights knowledge gap within voluntary sector groups and local communities. She explained how there is a real affinity between these groups and human rights – often people tell BIHR they know human rights are relevant to their work but they don’t enough about human rights to practically apply in everyday work. Through the project BIHR supported organisations and individuals in local communities to build up knowledge and capacity on human rights in a variety of creative ways. This included staff training, arts projects, and our hugely successful Human Rights Tour, a series of free to attend events on human rights in towns and cities across the UK.
Sarah Faulkner described the activities undertaken by Assert, an organisation that supports adults with autism and Asperger syndrome in Brighton and Hove, and the impact human rights has had on their work. Sarah described practical examples of how they had used human rights in their work, for example in negotiations with the local council about the support offered to people with autism and Asperger syndrome. Sarah believes grassroots charities have a role in shedding light on the side of human rights that is largely ignored by the media, a side that helps those in the community that are in need of support. BIHR and other human rights charities raise awareness of how human rights are relevant to different groups of people and Sarah explains that with a bit of support, such as that given by BIHR, she feels more confident when campaigning for the recognition and understanding of those with Asperger syndrome and autism.
Sam Bond is one of BIHR’s local human rights champions. With the support of BIHR, Sam has been working hard to raise awareness of human rights in her local community and at UK Brighton and Hove. Age UK Brighton and Hove provides a range of services to older people, including advocacy, a crisis service, information and advice, a help at home service, and an IT drop in service. Sam views human rights as protections that we all have against the power of the government, including local authority services. She explained how having a clear understanding of human rights is particularly important for the older people she works with. Sam wants the frontline workers of the local authority, along with clients themselves, to be aware of human rights and for information about human rights to become more accessible to older people.
Both Sam and Sarah highlight the importance of highlighting the relevance of human rights to people in our communities. Sophie gave examples of cases that illustrate how human rights are here to help us all. One case involved the intended separation of an elderly couple because they’d been assessed as having differing physical needs which meant they were going to be placed in separate care homes. They had been married for 65 years and were faced with the prospect of being separated for the first time in their long married life. Their family and the local community used the right to respect for private and family life in the Human Rights Act to campaign against the decision, and the local authority reversed their decision. Sophie explained that this case showed the power of the Human Rights Act to empower older people and their families to challenge unfair decisions by the local authority, without the need to go to court.
Sophie also highlighted a case involving a young man with autism and learning disabilities who was detained unlawfully for over a year by the local authority following a brief period of temporary respite care whilst his father recovered from illness. The young man and his father went to court to challenge these decisions on the grounds that they violated the rights to liberty and to respect for private and family life under the Human Rights Act. Following this the young man was able to return home. These cases show how human rights have helped improve the lives of ordinary individuals, and how we never know when we might need the protection of human rights.
Sarah, Sam and Sophie remind us how human rights are relevant to all of us. BIHR is working hard to spread the word about human rights in local communities across the UK via our Human Rights Tour. We will be visiting towns and cities across the UK this autumn holding free to attend one-day events on human rights. We would love to see you there. Dates and locations will be available shortly on our website, so watch this space!
To listen to the radio programme please click here.
To see a recent blog by BIHR Human Rights Champion Sam Bond on the human rights of older people, click here.