Three new reports have highlighted the importance of independent advocacy for those whose human rights are at risk. The reports identify independent advocacy as a vital part of people being able to participate in decision making and access justice.
SIAA are supporting the calls in the new Make Human Rights Justice a Reality report. The report, written by Human Rights Consortium Scotland, JustRight Scotland, Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland, Poverty Alliance, Shelter Scotland, CLAN Childlaw and Justice, identifies 13 calls to make access to justice a reality. Call 4 is “Provide independent advocacy for all: Independent advocacy is a crucial support for many people navigating routes to remedy. It is time to make these services available to all who need them to access human rights justice, no matter who they are.”
The report notes the National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership and in the advice from the Human Rights Bill Lived Experience Board have emphasised “the vital place of independent advocacy within the Scottish human rights framework”. The report goes on to illustrate the patchwork legilsation and shortage of resourcing (that SIAA members are all too familiar with) that results in gaps in provision of independent advocacy for people whose rights are at risk.
The report calls on Scottish Government and policy makers to embed independent advocacy into the upcoming Scottish Human Rights Bill through the Human Rights Scheme: “placing a requirement on the Scottish Government to report on the provision and resourcing of independent advocacy services for everyone who needs them. Attention is needed to fill the gaps in service provision, as well as sustainable and adequate funding of services.”
You can read different versions of the report on the HRCS website and watch their short video below. Please support these calls! If you are from a civil society organisation, HRCS are asking you to support these Calls to Action. Please send your organisation’s logo to firstname.lastname@example.org to pledge your support.
The report from Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) focusses on how the new human rights framework being introduced into Scots Law in the next few years can be enforced on a day-to-day basis. The paper looks at both non-judicial and judicial routs to remedy and therefore notes independent advocacy’s important role in both settings: “The role of advocacy services can play an indispensable role in supporting and ensuring genuine participation and informed decision making.” The report suggests that enabling collective access to justice is essential to addressing systems issues and asks key questions about what mechanisms might helps support collective advocacy movements in the access to justice space. This is something that was addressed in the Scottish Mental Health Law Review (Scott Review) with specific proposals being:
- “collective advocacy groups should have an explicit right to raise a court action for human right breaches. This right must be supported by access to legal advice, guidance and support for groups who wish to take this step.
- there should be an alternative way for collective advocacy groups to be able to escalate human rights issues that remain unresolved and unaddressed by services to another scrutiny body/Commissioner to investigate. This would need to be supported by a participatory process of referral and consideration within the identified scrutiny body.”
The National Collaborative Call for Evidence analysis report highlights the value of independent advocacy, pointing to increased peer advocacy as positive for people affected by substance use: “Advocacy was widely recognised for individuals and families as key to navigating the complex systems and processes and helping to uphold people’s rights.” The report also identified a recommendation that independent advocacy “should be ‘opt out’ rather than ‘opt in’ to ensure meaningful participation.” This is in line with similar recommendations in the Scottish Mental Health Law Review (Scott Review) and Independent Review of Learning Disability and Autism in the Mental Health Act (Rome Review).