All of us deserve to live well and flourish, with our human rights respected, protected, and fulfilled. We know that protecting economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) is essential in creating a fairer and more just society, and that is why for ten years Just Fair has championed these rights. In collaboration with partners across the UK and internationally, we have brought social justice and human rights together, leading ground-breaking research and campaigns to ensure that UK law, policy and practice complies with domestic and international human rights obligations.
To mark ten years of Just Fair, we wanted to share ten achievements, many undertaken with partners, of which we’re particularly proud.
Want to hear more from Just Fair? Sign up for our latest research, news and more.
1. Communities collaborating through the Social Rights Alliance
2019 to present
Solidarity is key to realising human rights. Since 2019 Just Fair has been working with communities to build an alliance of social rights activists, supporting people to understand and claim their rights, around the issues affecting them. Working with grassroots groups challenges Just Fair to confront and appreciate the universality of rights and the importance of solidarity in practice.
2. Working in partnership to challenge barriers to transport
This year we worked with London TravelWatch to successfully lobby Transport for London (TfL) to reduce the Oyster card auto top-up limit from the £20 minimum, and stop plans to take away people’s ability to pay cash at all London stations. We used international human rights frameworks to make the point to TfL that barriers to transport limit people’s access to their everyday rights such as their right to work and to education. Find out more about the fight to protect Londoners’ travel access.
3. Highlighting food poverty as a human rights issue
Way back in 2013 we highlighted that the massive increase in food bank use was a human rights issue – the first time that this had been done. We invited the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, to London and to speak with the media, campaigners and lawyers. We helped compel the UK Government to undertake an inquiry and eventually accept that the increase in usage was demand-led.
4. Winning stronger equality protections in England
2017 to present
In 2017, together with the Equality Trust, we launched the #1ForEquality campaign. We now co-convene a cross-NGO campaign which seeks to implement Section 1 of the Equality Act, the socio-economic duty, across the UK.
Why is that important? Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 introduces a socio-economic duty on public bodies that requires them to ‘have due regard to the desirability of exercising [their functions] in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.’ It’s a key part of the Equality Act 2010, but successive UK governments have refused to bring it into force.
Now the good news. We’ve worked with local and combined authorities across England, and have seen the socio economic duty voluntarily adopted by public bodies including:
As part of the campaign group, we also produced a new guide to help other public authorities voluntarily implement the duty.
5. Advocating for the right to education
A number of universities across England have begun to offer Sanctuary Scholarships, where tuition fees are waived for successful asylum seeker applicants.
But in 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic posed a major challenge to these students. Following a request from two charities, Asylum Matters and City of Sanctuary, we submitted evidence to universities in the North East of England highlighting the need for them to ensure equal access to university resources for asylum seekers studying as Sanctuary Scholars, in order to fulfil their right to education.
As a result of our intervention, these universities provided financial support for all their Sanctuary Scholar students to support their move online and continue their studies.
6. Holding the UK Government to account on children’s rights through specialist evidence
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international human rights treaty which recognises children’s rights. The UK has signed and ratified this which means it is legally binding in the UK.
In response to evidence provided by civil society organisations in England, including Just Fair, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has asked the UK Government to provide information on key child rights issues including child poverty and resourcing for child rights. In particular, the UK has been asked to describe measures taken to “Ensure that children, including those in vulnerable situations, are not affected by austerity measures or regressive measures taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the potential consequences of the economic crisis triggered by those measures.”
This is a key way of holding the UK Government to account to ensure that child rights are not at risk, even in these extraordinary times.
7. Challenging austerity through facilitating visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights to England
We worked with partners and local communities to support the official visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, to the UK in November 2018.
In addition, we co-ordinated an open letter calling for action in response to his damning report on UK poverty to the UN Human Rights Council.
“Deep cuts to public services do not work and work does not pay for too many people. If the government had intended to harm the British social fabric on purpose, their masterplan would not have needed to be substantially different from the social devastation we’ve seen this last decade… Mr Alston’s verdict is out. It’s the government’s turn now. The world is listening.”
The report is just as relevant today.Read our take on Mr Alston’s report.
8. Informing the UN’s investigation into UK welfare reforms and equal rights policies
Between 2014 and 2016 Just Fair convened a consortium of more than 80 organisations that gathered and submitted evidence in the last UK review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. At the time, our Chair Jamie Burton said, “We and many others are concerned about the adverse impact austerity policies have had on the least well off and already marginalised in society, including those in work. In the one of the richest countries in the world people do not have enough food to eat or decent housing to live in.”
As part of the examination of government policies, the UN Committee requested further information from the UK Government on more than 30 issues.
9. Protecting human rights during the pandemic
When the Covid-19- pandemic forced us to work from home, we took it as an opportunity to reimagine how we work. We closed our London office and offered all staff the opportunity to work from home on a permanent basis. This has led to a group of staff and trustees who are much more broadly representative of the nations and regions of the UK. In addition, we have seized the opportunity to work with organisations across the UK, including in preparation for the seventh periodic review of the UK under ICESCR.
10. Building a human rights bridge out of poverty
2020 to present
Through the Social Rights Alliance, we have been involved in work called ‘Rightsbridge’, a shared journey that brings together people with lived and learnt experiences of poverty and human rights activism across the UK. This has led us to reimagine how participation in UN human rights review mechanisms can work, and how they can truly serve those with lived experience of human rights abuses.
Want to keep up to date with our work to make the UK a fairer, more just place for each one of us? Sign up for updates, news and more.