Voluntary Health Scotland has responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the planned Human Rights Bill for Scotland.
This legislation presents an incredible opportunity to reduce the number of people being missed by services or not being able to access their rights. It could represent a significant change in our public service delivery towards embedding a human rights-based approach across services. However, this will all depend on the strength of the legislation and its implementation.
Our response is focused primarily on the incorporation of rights within the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and how this legislation could be used to tackle the persistence of health inequalities. The rights included in ICESCR are foundational to the underlying socio-economic determinants of health, be it housing, social security, access to food or healthcare. These socio-economic determinants are key to whether someone enjoys good health and good life expectancy or the opposite.
We have also emphasised the importance of equity as a key principle in this legislation. Tackling inequality should be a central component of the Bill and it needs to be more explicit. There needs to be clarity in what we mean by universality and recognition of the limitations of universality without first targeting those most in need of support. We have made the case for inclusion health principles to be included in at least the associated guidance for the legislation. Inclusion health is a service, research and policy agenda that aims to prevent and redress health and social inequities among the most vulnerable and excluded populations by taking a human rights-based approach. This includes the protection of the fundamental right to health, which is the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This approach includes homeless individuals, prisoners, sex workers, and people with substance use disorders who often fall outside groups with protected characteristics.
We held three events in the run up to the consultation to gather the views of our members about the reality on the ground for people accessing their right to health and wider human rights. One of these events was in partnership with the Human Rights Consortium Scotland and the Health and Social Care ALLIANCE to inform our wider networks of the importance of this legislation to our work. We are so grateful to all our members who contributed to this work and shared their views on the legislation.
The government’s consultation document states “by giving domestic legal effect to these standards, Scotland can ensure that focused attention on fundamental rights like health, housing and an adequate standard of living is not a political choice.” We hope that the legislation will have the strength to make this a reality for people in Scotland.
You can read our full response here: VHS Human Rights Bill Consultation Response
For more information please contact our Policy & Engagement Lead: Kimberley