Human Rights Lived Experience Board
Saturday 10th December 2022 is Human Rights Day. We invited Mhairi Snowdon, Director of Human Rights Consortium Scotland, to blog about the Scottish Government “Human Rights Lived Experience Board”. Mhairi and her colleagues at the Consortium co-facilitated the Board.
There is a new Human Rights Bill planned for Scotland. It is so important that this bill is grounded firmly in what will work to see more human rights realised for more people.
That is why we, at Human Rights Consortium Scotland, have been delighted to work with the Scottish Government Human Rights Team. Together we have created a Board where people with experience of challenging rights infringements can give advice on what will work. This ‘Lived Experience Board’ that we facilitate sits alongside two others:
- one is made up of children and young people and is facilitated by Together: the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights
- the other is facilitated by the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities.
Purpose of the Board
We were clear from the outset about what this Board was not! It was not a representative selection of people from across Scotland. The people on the Board are not there to represent all people with a certain identity or experience, or any organisation’s viewpoint. Neither are the people on the Board going to sit down and write the Human Rights Bill themselves.
What it is though, is a very diverse, engaged group of people whose experience of when things have gone wrong – and gone right – is incredibly valuable for getting this legislation right. Their core purpose is to give advice to Scottish Government on what would help this Bill to bring change for their families and communities.
How the Board was set up
The first step in setting up the Board was to ask a range of diverse civil society organisations to nominate members for the Board. Then in February 2022, we held the first introductory meetings. The meetings were held in blocks, with one 2-hour meeting each week for 3 weeks. We decided initially to hold these online on Zoom, though in October this year we also held in-person optional meetings in Glasgow and Aberdeen.
The meetings have all been on Monday mornings – interestingly we did ask whether people might prefer an evening slot to meet, but there wasn’t much takeup on this at all. So of course, this Board is particularly made up of people with the time, maybe because they are retired or work flexibly or work shifts or are not working for different reasons.
Who is on the Board?
The Board is made up of 32 people from a wide diversity of backgrounds. About half are from outside the Central Belt, with about two-thirds living in an urban area. The Board has higher numbers of people over 40 than under 40 years old.
The Board members come with a wide range of experience – for example:
- 8 people have experience of the immigration system
- 12 members have been unpaid carers
- 10 have experience of discrimination as a disabled person
- 6 have experienced racial discrimination or racism
- 12 members have experience in some way of the mental health system
- 14 have long-term interaction with the healthcare system
- 8 members have experience of living in poverty
What has the Board done so far?
Board meetings are made up of a mixture of presentations, whole group discussions, breakouts and polls, and always with a break in the middle! Each block looks loosely at a particular aspect of the Bill and its development. The first block considered how the public consultation should be done, and other blocks have looked at:
- access to justice
- key gaps related to different types of rights
- environmental justice
- monitoring and reporting
- and more.
In June, Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Equalities and Older People, met with the Board for questions and comments. In October we had one-off meeting that focused on the cost of living crisis.
The Board’s advice
From the outset, the Board members were clear:
‘Please don’t pass a law that then just sits on the shelf. We want to see this Bill bring about rights realised in people’s lives.’
The Board’s advice has been invaluable in these early days of Bill development for helping to do just that. Their advice has been detailed, challenging, thoughtful and always very clear about what would make rights real.
But don’t take my word for it! In-depth and summary reports of the Board’s discussion are available for all to read or listen to – so do check them out!
Joseph from the Scottish Government Human Rights Team has set out next steps for the board.
“We’ll be working to ensure the Board’s work is reflected in the consultation we plan to run in 2023. We are clear that this is by no means the end of our work with people with lived experience of facing human rights barriers. Public participation in creating and then implementing the Bill is going to be really important to make sure the Bill makes a real and meaningful difference for the people who need it most.”
Find out more about human rights policy on gov.scot