SIGNIFICANT SOCIETAL TRENDS risk compromising the social, economic and cultural rights of people in England and Wales, in particular, according to a report to the United Nations from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Economic, social and cultural rights include the rights to adequate food, to adequate housing, to education, to health, to social security, to take part in cultural life, to water and sanitation, and to work.

The report outlines some of the issues to be addressed to strengthen equality and human rights in parts of Britain, including the pressures on social care and the effects of digital exclusion and online safety. It will inform the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which oversees the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The UK signed this international treaty in 1976 and the UN will be reviewing the UK’s compliance later in 2023.

The EHRC report highlights how the rising cost of living, particularly for essentials such as energy and food, is exacerbating inequalities already worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Higher costs worsen poverty rates, which disproportionately affect certain groups, including some ethnic minorities, as well as disabled people and children. The report calls on the UK and Welsh governments to continue to work to address these problems.

The ongoing shift to an online world also risks excluding some people from work or services, particularly the 10 per cent of adults in the UK who do not use or have access to the internet at home, or who are adversely impacted by cost or a lack of digital skills. The report calls on the UK and Welsh Governments to ensure these groups are included in strategies to increase digital inclusion.

Marcial Boo, Chief Executive Officer of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Social, economic, and cultural rights are essential for people to live full and free lives. They relate to rights about our most basic needs, including our homes, our families or our health.

“Our report to the UN shows that some of these rights are at risk in England and Wales. Some people risk being excluded from the benefits of technology, and there are ongoing challenges for adults in social care.

“The increasing cost of living is impacting people’s economic rights too, with children and disabled people particularly impacted. With rising inflation comes rising poverty. Upholding the UK’s treaty commitments to promote and protect people’s economic, social and cultural rights is vital to help everyone in Britain to thrive.”

The EHRC is the UN-accredited National Human Rights Institution for England and Wales, and for Scotland in all matters reserved to the UK Government.  As part of its role, it contributes regularly to UN reviews, monitoring the progress of human rights.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is an international human rights treaty. Countries that have signed and ratified it commit to working towards protecting and promoting a number of important economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to an adequate standard of living and labour rights. The UK signed up to this treaty in 1976.

* The report, Economic, social and cultural rights in Great Britain, is available to download here.

* Source: Equality and Human Rights Commission

The EHRC also operates in Scotland