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Covid-19 human rights inquiry call

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Scottish equality and human rights groups would like to see the implications the pandemic is having for communities examined

Scottish equality and human rights bodies have joined together to call for an inquiry into the wider implications of Covid-19.

The bodies responsible for oversight of equality and human rights for adults, children and young people in Scotland, have urged the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee to consider undertaking a probe into the equality and human rights implications of the pandemic.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland (CYPCS) have called for an inquiry by the committee to identify individuals and groups who are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and measures related to tackling it, to identify actions that Scottish Government and other public bodies need to take to minimise the negative effect on equality and human rights, and to scrutinise measures taken by the Scottish Government and other public bodies for their impact on equality and human rights.

The three bodies argue 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.

In a letter to committee convenor Ruth Maguire MSP, the three organisations highlight concerns that certain groups appear to be disproportionately and negatively affected by the impacts of the virus and responses to tackle it. They observe that:

• Women and young people are among those most exposed to increased risk as they are disproportionately likely to be key workers.

• Women, children, older and disabled people are among the most impacted by mitigation measures taken by the Scottish Government and others.

• Children experiencing poverty, and those with disabilities or other additional support needs, are cut off from the support normally provided through schools.

• Individuals from particular ethnic minorities are being hospitalised at higher rates.

John Wilkes, head of Scotland at the EHRC, said: “This virus and the protections in place impact people differently. We believe that it will be important to consider carefully the specific effects they may have on certain groups who are already disadvantaged so they are not left further behind. For many people the restrictions to everyday life will be hugely disruptive, but ultimately manageable. For others, the implications could be profound.

Judith Robertson, chair of the SHRC, said: “In times of crisis, human rights laws and standards must guide government action, parliamentary scrutiny, and subsequent monitoring and review of measures taken. Broad powers have been conferred on Scottish ministers by emergency legislation, enabling them to deal with the current public health crisis.

“While these measures may be necessary at this moment in time, many of them have substantial human rights implications and must therefore be subject to regular review. 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.”

Bruce Adamson, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, said: “Covid-19 and our response to it is the biggest challenge we have faced in a very long time in terms of children’s human rights. It will have a disproportionate impact on those experiencing poverty and those who receive additional support. Human rights don’t go away in a time of crisis, and it’s during the hardest times it’s most important that they are respected, protected and fulfilled.”

 

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