SIAA have published our response to A Human Rights Bill for Scotland: Consultation. The Scottish Government Consultation gathered views to help inform how Scottish Government will take forward the Human Rights Bill. The Bill will incorporate a range of economic, social and cultural rights into Scots law for the first time, as far as possible within the limits of devolved competence.
In brief – why should independent advocacy be included in the Human Rights Bill?
For the Human Rights Bill to be effective in bringing about the realisation of human rights for people across Scotland, independent advocacy must be included to enable rights to participation, access to justice and enable everyone to have their voices heard. Without clear mechanisms and tools built into the Human Rights Bill to make rights real for people, the Bill will not be effective.
Independent advocacy is ready made to bring human rights to life. When properly resourced, independent advocacy can create the context for people to be heard, services to uphold their rights and justice to be realised. Independent advocacy has been a key feature of recent independent reviews and policy recommendations. Most importantly, when people with lived and living experience of barriers to having their rights realised are asked what has helped to break down those barriers, independent advocacy has frequently and consistently featured. Independent advocates are human rights defenders.
As the national organisation for independent advocacy in Scotland, SIAA have provided a detailed response to Question 27 that draws on evidence, expertise and views from our membership of independent advocacy organisations and groups.
Summary of calls from SIAA’s response
- The Bill should guarantee access to independent advocacy for all individuals, ensuring that this provision is included in the Human Rights Scheme.
- As implementation work on the Bill proceeds, part of this must be a clear roadmap to increasing access to independent advocacy, this roadmap must
- Ensure that those with current rights to independent advocacy in Scots law can access it
- Utilize different models of independent advocacy including collective advocacy to support groups to address systemic human rights issues
- Provide individual independent advocacy and citizen advocacy first to those who experience the greatest barriers to having their rights realised
- Progressive realisation of rights should be supported by sustainably increasing access to independent advocacy so that eventually it can be accessed by anyone with a human rights issue. This should be done in consultation with existing grassroots and local independent advocacy organisations and groups.
- ‘Independent advocacy’ must have a clear definition in the Bill that aligns with the Independent Advocacy Principles, Standards and Code of Best Practice as follows: “Independent advocacy organisations or groups providing support and representation must:
- Have structural, financial and psychological independence from others
- Provide no other services, have no other interests, ties or links other than the delivery, promotion, support and defence of independent advocacy.”
Additional detail and thanks
SIAA have covered the following in our response:
- Importance of supported decision-making to UNCRPD principles and its link to independent advocacy
- How collective advocacy can facilitate access to justice
- Examples of independent advocacy being a key feature of recent independent reviews and policy recommendations, particularly from those with lived and living experience
- Good practice example of independent advocacy in the Children’s Hearings System
- How independent advocacy acts as an ‘everyday’ accountability mechanism, is effective in early intervention and prevention and helps address the implementation gap
You can read our full response here. This response has been a significant piece of work for SIAA and for many other civil society organisations who hold human rights central to what they do. We are very grateful to our members for sharing their views on the consultation. We would also like to thank the members of the Civil Society Working Group, the group has been invaluable in creating the context for upskilling on human rights policy.