Charities fail to use legislation to boost services for needy

Charities should use the Human Rights Act to persuade public bodies to make changes to protect people when they experience maltreatment and discrimination, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Its new report, Human Rights: Who Needs Them? points out that while celebrities like Catherine Zeta Jones have used the Human Rights Act to their advantage, charities are failing to use it to drive up standards in care homes and services for vulnerable people. It concludes that the voluntary sector can play a crucial role in helping those most at risk to protect their human rights, while avoiding the courts.

The report also argues that the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights should have the dual role of supporting the voluntary sector in campaigning for human rights while acting as a legal watchdog.

Research fellow Frances Butler said: "It's hardly known that the Act can be applied outside the court room to help vulnerable and socially excluded people. Human rights principles like dignity and respect should guide how public bodies provide services."

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