Equality and Human Rights Commission
Before October 2007, there was no single body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights, adults or children's rights, in Britain. In 2006 the Equality Act dissolved the Commission on Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission and created in their place the new Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the first independent human rights body - the national human rights institution for the UK.
The Commission is a statutory body which came into being on October 1st 2007. It took over the responsibilities of the Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission - bringing together and adding to the work of these previous bodies. It is a Great Britain wide independent advocate for equality and human rights. Its aims are to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. It also has a unique mandate to promote understanding of the Human Rights Act in England and Wales. The Equality and Human Rights Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It will also give advice and guidance to individuals, the voluntary and public sectors, and businesses.
With offices based in both Cardiff and Bangor, the Wales Commission is there to ensure that the Equality and Human Rights Commission takes account of Welsh needs.
It does this by having a Wales Commissioner, a National Director for Wales and staff team and a statutory committee, which oversees the work and works closely with the Welsh Assembly and other Welsh organisations.
Enforcing the Law
The Equality Act 2006 gave the Equality and Human Rights Commission extensive legal powers to enforce equality laws. They have a directorate of expert lawyers and can take legal action on behalf of individuals in certain circumstances, work to create legal precedents and to clarify and improve the law.
The Equality Act 2010 replaces the existing anti-discrimination laws with a much easier and consistent single Act and amongst other things brings in a public sector duty to reduce inequalites. Take a look at the information on the EHRC website here.
The Commission can exercise its functions in relation to 'human rights'. This could include the UNCRC. The Commission could, for example, use its powers to offer advice and materials to support the promotion of children's human rights in planning and commissioning services for children and young people pursuant to the Children Act 2004.
Furthermore, under the Equality Act, children and young people can be regarded as a 'community' defined by age, on behalf of which the Commission could make representations and challenge measures (including legislative measures) that have a particularly adverse effect on children and young people. Children though are excluded for example from the 'goods and services' duty - see here for more information.
The Commission also has powers to enforce the equality duties of organisations and authorities, and to launch enquires and formal investigations.
In situations where it is likely that human rights will be breached, the Commission has the power to take cases to judicial review under the Human Rights Act. It can also intervene in human rights cases taken by others.
Human Rights Submissions
As an official human rights body, the EHRC has a key role in engaging with the United Nations human rights system. One of the Commission's roles is to submit evidence and reports to the various international human rights committees, relating to the situation in Britain.
In 2008 the EHRC submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Working with young people
Alongside the strategic priorities of the Commission, they have launched a number of projects which bring together young people who might not otherwise meet, to get to know and understand one another better. Through these creative, evidence-based projects that speak directly to young people, the Commission aims to create a younger generation that fully embraces equality and human rights.
Website of the EHRC
EHRC in Wales