Accessibility statement

Campaigners issue human rights plea for York during coronavirus pandemic

Posted on 6 May 2020

HUMAN rights matter more than ever during the coronavirus crisis, campaigners say. York Human Rights City Network says attention to human rights is crucial in three areas - protecting vulnerable groups and challenging discrimination, balancing priorities when difficult decisions have to be made and ensuring transparency and openness in government.

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A spokesperson said such times of emergency called for emergency measures, but there was still a need to make sure some individuals or groups of people were not treated disproportionately less well than others.

"For example, the Government has lifted some of the statutory responsibilities towards disabled people with care or complex health needs, those with mental illnesses and children in care," they said."Many organisations working with these groups are alarmed that it will make them less safe and create ‘second class citizens’.

"What will be the effect here in York? There are reports of some care homes giving blanket ‘do not resuscitate’ notices to all their residents. Is that happening here? Mass school closures can mean that some children go without the only meal they receive every day, especially if none of the authorities had been aware before the pandemic that their family’s finances were so tight.

"There are reports nationally of increases in domestic violence and child abuse. What about here in York? One GP’s surgery in York has reported racist attacks on one of its staff: are other Black and minority ethnic groups being targeted in the city?"

They said the network had produced a Fact Sheet on ‘Coronavirus and Human Rights’ for local government and statutory agencies and community and voluntary groups, which is available on the York Human Rights City website.

"It offers guidance on addressing human rights when making the difficult policy and practice decisions required by the pandemic and some frameworks to support advocacy and the monitoring of policy as it impacts on individuals, families and communities.

"The Network is also acting as a focal point for gathering experiences from as many parts of the York community as possible about how the emergency powers are being applied.

"It will report on these in July to the Inquiry being held by the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights into the impact of the Government’s COVID-19 legislation"

"It will also send its report to the city’s Human Rights & Equalities Board. Individuals or organisations can take part in the following ways through until the end of May:

You can submit your responses in writing, at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, 6 Innovation Close, Heslington, York YO10 5ZF marking the envelope COVID-19 YHRCN Survey.

"We are also in the process of producing a BSL interpretation and will do our best to help if anyone needs other formats.

""We’d like to know:

  • How have you as an individual, or members of your community, or users of your service been affected by the steps taken by Government?
  • How well do you think that human rights are being respected during the COVID-19 response here in York?
  • Is there anything more that you believe should be done to ensure that your human rights, those of your community, and/or those of your service users, are being protected here in York during the pandemic?

There are likely to be human rights consequences of the crisis both across the country and around the world. We in York are proud of being a Human Rights City - we need to be vigilant that this label has substance, in times of crisis as well as in more normal times."

Article written by Mike Laycock, Chief Reporter - York Press