York Human Rights City Network’s (YHRCN) submitted a report recently to the Inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Based on evidence gathered from 28 local organisations and 16 individuals regarding the Government’s response to COVID-19, the report found national ‘command and control’ government initiatives to be largely both inappropriate and ineffective, compounded where similar approaches were taken at local government level.
They also established that the lack of partnership approaches utilising existing local structures and knowledge, including in the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, was marked.
Their evidence shows that proper consideration was not given to ways in which disproportionate impacts could have been avoided and that, worryingly, such lack of consideration continued over time. This suggests that it could not be accounted for only by the speed at which emergency measures had to be introduced but also by an underlying lack of attention to human rights.
YHRCN sets out some of the steps needed to put human rights at the core of both service delivery and policy nationally and locally including:
- Focus on equality, measured by outcomes
- Improve communications so they are relevant and accessible to all
- End the digital divide
- Embed training in and awareness of human rights across national and local government
- Recognise the role of the civil society and bolster the further development of the VCSE sector
- Increase the capacity of local Councils to build long-term resilience
The report found that the following groups have been disproportionately affected by the response illustrated with examples for each:
- Older people
- Disabled people
- Unpaid carers
- Homeless people
- People with inadequate incomes
- People affected by domestic and/or sexual abuse
- Refugees and asylum seekers
- BAME communities
- LGB and Trans people
Issues that were raised by those giving evidence fell into seven broad themes, namely:
- Vulnerability as a dehumanising concept
- Inadequate communications
- Digital divide
- Privacy issues
- Reduced access to care and support
- The importance of community
- The challenge of local government resilience
YHRCN is happy to discuss the findings further and welcome comments.
The report is available on their website https://www.yorkhumanrights.org/current-work/coronavirus-response/