The bodies responsible for oversight of equality and human rights for adults, children and young people in Scotland have today welcomed the decision by the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee to undertake an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on equality and human rights.
Earlier this month, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland (CYPCS) wrote jointly to Committee Convenor Ruth Maguire MSP, urging the need for an inquiry due to concerns that certain groups were being disproportionately and negatively affected by the impacts of the virus and responses to tackle it.
Concerns highlighted included those for groups being exposed to increased risk due to the likelihood of them being key workers, that certain groups were being most impacted by mitigation measures, and that those who would usually access support in their school or community were being cut off from that assistance due to lockdown measures.
The three organisations jointly called for an inquiry by the committee which would:
- identify individuals and groups who are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and measures related to tackling it;
- identify actions that Scottish Government and other public bodies need to take to minimise the negative effect on equality and human rights, and;
- scrutinise measures taken by the Scottish Government and other public bodies for their impact on equality and human rights.
The three bodies have stated their belief that actions which are grounded in equality and human rights will command the strongest levels of public confidence, consent and compliance, and ensure that those who are most likely to experience the most negative impacts are prioritised and protected.
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner said:
“Children in Scotland are being disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with those living in poverty now confined to inadequate housing and struggling to get enough to eat, to care experienced children threatened with homelessness, to children with Additional Support Needs being denied statutory support and the routine that comes with regular attendance at school. The Equalities and Human Rights Committee undertaking an inquiry provides additional scrutiny to the ad-hoc Covid Committee and will support the Parliament as a whole to play its role as a human rights guarantor.”
John Wilkes, Head of Scotland for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
“It is clear that this virus, and the protections put in place in response, impact people differently. We believe that it is important to carefully consider the effects on certain groups who are already disadvantaged so that they are not left further behind. We believe it is both possible and crucial to protect rights while saving lives and we look forward to contributing to the call for submissions issued by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, and we stand ready to assist in their work.”
Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission said:
“We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry, ensuring that the human rights implications of the measures taken at this time of crisis are subject to regular review and parliamentary scrutiny. It is crucial that human rights laws and standards are at the forefront of government action, and we hope that this inquiry will provide an understanding of the impact of the measures taken on the most vulnerable in society.
“The Scottish Parliament has an important role here, working together with us as human rights and equality bodies, other regulatory and oversight bodies, civil society and people who are most impacted by the current situation to develop that understanding and potentially improve policy and practise as a consequence.”