What is the Human Rights Act?

The Human Rights Act 1998 ensures that people can enforce their rights which are set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It also compels public bodies (including the Government, the police and local authorities) to respect these rights.

These rights include
  • the right to life
  • the right to be free from torture and ill-treatment
  • protection from slavery and forced labour
  • the right to liberty
  • the right to a fair trial
  • the right to private and family life
  • freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of association
  • the right to marry
  • the right to an effective remedy
  • the right to be free from discrimination 

Repeal of the Human Rights Act?

The 2019 Conservative Manifesto noted plans to update the Human Rights Act. However, there are plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a 'British Bill of Rights'.

How did we get here?

The Independent Human Rights Act Review (IHRAR) was announced in December 2020. It considered how the Human Rights Act works in practice and whether any change is needed. A call for evidence closed in March 2021.

  • Read Together's submission to the call for evidence here.

The vast majority of submissions received by IHRAR spoke strongly in support of the HRA. They pointed to its impact in improving public administration for individuals, through developing a human rights culture.(Page 16, para 46).  

— Independent Human Rights Act Review

At the same time, the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights had a parallel inquiry, taking evidence on a much wider set of questions to understand how the Human Rights Act has been working and whether it needs change. The Joint Committee published its report in June 2021. 

“Evidence we heard has led us to conclude that there is no case for changing the Human Rights Act.”

— UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights 

So how did we really get here?

Despite the supportive evidence received, the UK Government is pushing forward with its plan to replace the Human Rights Act with what civil society is calling the 'Rights Removal Bill'.  

Together has created a briefing which sets out what changes it will have. We have also joined other civil society organisations to express our concerns on how this will leave more people vulnerable to human rights violations.

Researching the impact of the Human Rights act on children

Together as been lucky enough to be joined by Siti Zaleha Binti Mohd Ali, an LLM in Human Rights candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Over the course of her placement, Siti researched the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on children's lives as well as some of the challenges children face when trying to access their rights. This involved interviewing many of our members of Together. From the challenges identified, Siti drew learning to inform implementation of the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

  • Read Siti's research here. 
  • Read Siti's blog about her research here. 

Case studies

Expand the tabs to read some real life case studies of how the Human Rights Act protects ordinary people doing about their everyday lives. 

  • Helping a child with disabilities challenge her school's blanket rule for transport

    A local authority had a policy that it would only provide school transport for children with disabilities who lived more than 3 miles from their school. A girl with disabilities lived 2.8 miles from her school and was told that she wasn't eligible for school transport. The girl's disability meant she could not travel independently. 

    The girl's mother approached the school and explained that this approach was contrary to her daughter's rights under the Human Rights Act. She said the blanket rule meant  it wasn't possible to consider her daughter's specific circumstances and this resulted in a disproportionate interference with her right to respect for private life. 

    As a result the head teacher took the issue to the local authority and the decision was reversed. The girl was then provided with transport to and from school each day. 

  • Helping unmarried parents and their children get access to bereavement benefits

    Siobhan McLoughlin, an unmarried mother, relied on the Human Rights Act to challenge discriminatory rules for bereavement benefits. Initially, she was told that she was not eligible for the payment as she had never been married to her partner of 23 years with whom she'd had four children. 

    The UK Supreme Court found that this rule was discriminatory and breached the rights of both the mother and her children under the Human Rights Act. 

    The case puts pressure on the UK Government to change the law. 

  • Helping children challenge a decision to reduce visits to see their mother

    A mother with mental health problems was struggling after the death of her husband. She was placed in supported care and her children were fostered. At first, the children were able to see their mother three times a week, but gradually these visits were reduced as the local children's services team said it did not have enough staff to supervise the visits. The children and their mother were very distressed by this.

    An advocate for the family argued that the situation was contrary to the the children's right to family life and was contrary to their best interests. This resulted in the children's services team restoring the three visits each week.