Human rights have always included economic and social rights as well as civil and political rights. Yet by virtue of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) the latter have always been better protected in the UK and are of course now fully incorporated by the Human Rights Act 1988.
Despite these constraints, Doughty Street has worked with solicitors and charities to ensure the successful fulfilment of economic and social rights. In cases concerning cuts to disability living allowance (R (Sumpter) v. SSWP), council tax (R (Moseley) v. HLBC) and support for asylum seekers (R (Refugee Action) v. SSHD) our barristers have used the common law, European Convention and EU law to protect some of the most marginalised and impoverished members of society from discriminatory treatment or further deprivation. These have included challenges against controversial measures like the ‘bedroom tax’ (R (MA) v. SSWP) and the benefits cap (R (JS) v. SSWP).
Nevertheless, the inalienability of all human rights is a fundamental precept of human rights theory and therefore Doughty Street has continuously advocated for equal status to be given to economic and social rights. In this regard we have been at the forefront of efforts to persuade the courts to consider international treaties which contain economic and social rights, including the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, People with Disabilities and the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (e.g. R (JS) v. SWP and Nzolameso v WCC).
Doughty Street has also worked with charities and other organisations such as Just Fair to engage in the UN’s treaty monitoring processes, whilst members of chambers have written and lectured on economic, social and cultural rights.
The movement behind economic and social rights is growing in the UK and Doughty Street intends to spend the next 25 years working towards its ultimate goal: the universal protection of economic and social rights.
For more information about Doughty Street’s work in this area please see our human rights team page.