Creating a fairer Britain
Title of guidance:
Year published: 2010
Length: 98 pages
Other formats: Contact: Scottish Human Rights Commission - 0131 240 2989 / email@example.com for alternative formats
Producer/ Publisher: Scottish Human Rights Commission
Type of organisation: Human rights commission in the UK
Generic (cross-sector) | GB wide| Case studies | External service guidance | Inspection and regulation | Commissioning or procurement | Human Rights Act | European Convention on Human Rights | UN Convention on the Rights of the Child |
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights | Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities |
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women | UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment | Research / evidence gathering
Audience: Service management | Commissioning or procurement | Senior executive | Corporate management | Policy managers and directors
Topics: human rights | equality | assessing risk | transparency and accountability | proportionality | involvement and participation | commissioning | human rights impact assessment
This report is intended as a first port of call for any public or private body which wishes to conduct a human rights impact assessment (HRIA) or to integrate human rights into an equality, health or environmental impact assessment. It maps examples of this relatively new area of work in the UK and internationally and, based upon these, identifies an eight step methodology for carrying out HRIAs. The report will assist organisations to develop HRIA methodologies and practices appropriate to their particular area of work. It includes two extended case studies (one in social care, the other in education). The report also includes a compendium of resources relating to HRIA and a brief review of each. The report is easy to navigate with interactive links that permit the reader to move easily between sections.
Impact assessment is a tool for evaluating the effect of policies, practices, programmes and regulatory interventions across a wide range of fields. Just as policymakers consider the environmental, social or economic impacts of policies by conducting impact assessments, so HRIAs aim to make policymakers consider the human rights impact of their policies. There are very few examples of HRIAs in the UK, but a wider range of examples internationally.
The report explains that HRIAs are a means of either:
HRIAs draw on internationally agreed definitions of human rights as set out in various international conventions, as well as in domestic law. Within the UK, the rights being assessed are almost always those set out in the Human Rights Act, which gives direct effect in domestic law to the rights guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights.
A notable exception is the Children’s Rights Impact Assessment model developed by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, which draws on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The human rights model also requires impacts to be disaggregated to focus specifically on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged whose rights are most frequently overlooked.
The report explains that HRIAs offer a holistic approach to human rights protection. They have the potential to impact upon the ways that policy is developed with regard to the human rights of all individuals rather than only those who have the resources to bring cases to courts.
In addition, HRIAs have the potential to prevent violations of human rights before they happen if they are undertaken at a point in the policy cycle before decisions are made and before people are affected. HRIAs also enable human rights to be ‘mainstreamed’ within policymaking. This has the potential to affect both institutional cultures and individual decision-making throughout an organisation.
The report also highlights risks that might prevent these benefits from being realised. These include the risk that HRIAs become simply a bureaucratic or ‘tick box’ process that must be overcome before a decision is made. There is also a danger that impact assessment will concentrate on short-term impacts that are easily quantifiable rather than long term impacts that are not easily anticipated but may be more meaningful.
There is no single blueprint for undertaking HRIAs. One of the key findings of the report is that HRIA methodologies are very context-specific. However, the report identifies a broad consensus around eight steps in the HRIA process. These are:
The report explains each of these steps in detail and makes recommendations about how they should be carried out. It illustrates each step by means of brief examples or quotations from HRIAs undertaken in the UK and abroad. It also draws attention to potential pitfalls and limitations that might be encountered at each stage.
The report also contains two extended case studies. These illustrate the general process a HRIA might follow in two different settings. The first illustration is of a local authority decision to ‘refocus’ social care spending on those defined as having most need. In particular it involves budget-cutting issues, a range of human rights issues, and complex issues of timing, evidence and consultation.
The second relates to a school that undertakes an assessment of all its policies. In particular, it involves consideration of how the screening and scoping process would function.
Each of the case studies examines how the equalities impacts of the policies in question would be assessed, although this report focuses mainly on the human rights aspect of the assessment.
The report recommends that human rights and equality impact assessment should generally be combined in this way. Non-discrimination and equality are fundamental human rights principles and so the two forms of impact assessment are mutually reinforcing. Moreover, equality impact assessments focus on relative treatment rather than absolute standards. Avoiding discrimination or promoting equality does not necessarily raise the standard of treatment for everybody. In contrast, human rights can raise general standards to an acceptable level and protect against universally bad treatment.
There is extensive existing practice by public bodies in the UK of undertaking equality impact assessments. The report links to examples of these and provides brief comments on each.
We hope that you found the resource helpful and easy to use. Please let us know about other guidance or references that you think we should include. Send us your feedback.