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 

Case studies

The Human Rights Act protects ordinary people going about their everyday lives. 

Expand the tabs to read some real life case studies. 

  • 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. 

Repeal of the Human Rights Act?

There have been campaigns to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a 'British Bill of Rights'. In the past these have been supported by the Conservative Government. 

Currently, the UK Government's position is that there are no plans to repeal the Human Rights Act. However, the 2017 Conservative Manifesto notes that reform of the UK's human rights framework may be reconsidered once the Brexit process is completed.

Amnesty International runs a campaign entitled 'Save the Act'. More information on this campaign is available here.