Did Scottish public authorities consider human rights during the pandemic?

Date: 28th May 2021
Category: COVID-19

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This report uncovered the human rights considerations from 48 public authorities using Freedom of Information requests.

The requests covered the period of 2019, before national lockdowns, and March-September 2020. These dates were chosen to explore the extent to which human rights were considered in the face of such a crisis.

Evidence gathered suggests that those particularly at risk of having their rights affected include healthcare and key workers; those accessing social care; residents in care homes; those living in poverty; older people; disabled people, people of colour, people seeking asylum, women and children.

The report seeks to answer the following questions:

  • Were authorities considering their human rights legal duties?
  • What part did human rights law or standards play in changes to services, to policy and to practice during the pandemic?
  • Did authorities take a rights-based approach to decision-making?

Asking these questions, Amnesty International Scotland and Human Rights Consortium Scotland were able to make the following findings:

  • There was a lack of evidence of authorities taking a human rights-based approach to decision making throughout the period March – September 2020 in relation to the delivery of social care services, education and housing.
  • The number of authorities which used impact assessments that included human rights considerations authorities dropped in the period of March to September in 2020.
  • Where human rights impact assessments had been undertaken during the pandemic, most authorities had only assessed a very small number of policies. Some related to staff wellbeing, and others were not of great significance to the serious risks to human rights presented by the pandemic, for example the reopening of recycling centres.

Following these findings, the report makes a series of recommendations, such as:

Developing and publishing of action plans for a human rights-based approach to pandemic recovery and renewal by Scottish Government and local authorities. Such an approach should include participation of marginalised groups and those whose rights were particularly impacted by COVID-19.

Read the report in full here.