Skip to main content

Article 22

Menu

Article 22

What law and policy changes do we need to take economic and social rights seriously?

What law and policy changes do we need to take economic and social rights seriously?

Article 22 is an initiative of the Institute of Health and Society. It will identify changes to law and policy needed to secure economic and social rights in Britain. These include the right to:

  • adequate housing, education, health, food, and social security
  • an adequate standard of living
  • workers’ rights
Article 22. Blocks of flats, graffiti on walls.

Economic and social rights are proclaimed in Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in a number of international treaties. The UK has voluntarily subscribed to many of these treaties. But successive governments have failed to bring these rights home.

The public's opinion about economic and social rights

This is despite the fact that most people care deeply about economic and social rights. Year after year, the Social Attitudes Survey shows a general concern about public services which are essential to fulfil these rights. A majority of the public:

  • believe employers should pay wages that cover the cost of living
  • support a national minimum wage increase
  • support wage top-ups for low-earning single parents and working couples without children

A growing majority believe in fairer taxation and greater redistribution of income, also favouring public spending on disability benefits.

When one asks children experiencing poverty and homelessness, as the Children’s Rights Alliance for England did, it becomes obvious that the enjoyment of education, family life and adequate housing absolutely depend on each other.

The people of York chose education, housing, adequate standard of living, health and social care, and equality and non-discrimination as the five human rights issues the York Human Rights City Network should focus on.

Although people care deeply about economic and social rights, it is essential to widen the general knowledge about them. A study by Ipsos Mori shows that 65 to 80% of people in the UK do not know that rights to an adequate standard of living, to education, to health and to work are part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 22: Homeless woman on city street.

Drafting a UK Bill of Economic and Social Rights

Peter Roderick and Koldo Casla are the convenors of the Article 22 project. Koldo is also the Policy Director of JustFair.

They are working with legal practitioners and academics around the country to draft a Bill on economic and social rights. The team is exploring ways to enhance the status of these rights based on relevant legislation and best practice from other countries.

Taking economic and social rights seriously requires significant changes in social security and housing. A radically different taxation system would also be needed, to ensure equal opportunities for everyone and to build a fair society.

Bringing home internationally recognised economic and social rights would change policy. It would have a positive impact on people’s lives. We would need to review and amend:

Local authorities must consider how their decisions and policies increase inequalities in health, housing or access to work that arise from socio-economic disadvantages.

Why Newcastle?

Economic and social rights are social justice through human rights, and Newcastle is the right home for this project.

In November 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, visited the UK. The Institute of Health and Society provided a written submission encouraging him to visit Newcastle and the North East. The submission states that:

  • the North East is in the most deprived 20% of English local authority areas, ranked 53 out of 326
  • more than 20% of Newcastle’s population live in areas that are among the 10% most deprived in the country

In the words of Dr Koldo Casla of the Institute of Health and Society:

“Britain is the land of the Charter of the Forest, the Peasants’ Revolt and the Putney Debates. It is the birthplace of Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill, the country of the NHS, the home of the council house. Social rights have been part of Britain’s tradition for centuries and Brexit should not change that.”

We must incorporate into our legal system all social rights standards that the UK has voluntarily signed up to at the international level. With Brexit around the corner, it is now more urgent than ever to do so.