”The purpose of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is to work with partners, communities and individuals to prevent emergency situations and to provide a response to fire, major flood, and road traffic collision emergencies. Our people engage with these partners, communities and individuals on a daily basis, with the goal of preventing loss of life and injury. To carry out this work and to reach those in the greatest need in an increasingly diverse environment, it is important that we provide equality in access to services, information and of opportunity. No-one will receive a lesser service because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age, gender, gender identity or any other human characteristic.Assessing the needs of the individuals in communities and our workforce is fundamental to the success of this organisation and the effectiveness of its service delivery. We aim to ensure this ethos influences all the functions which support our services of Protection, Prevention and Response. We are working to build a workforce of the best people from all our communities to enable us to share a better understanding of individual needs and help us to deliver the best possible service.”
Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer
The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force in October 2000 and enabled people to enforce the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK courts. Article 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998 refers to the prohibition of discrimination, and states that the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights shall be secured without discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
In practice, taking a human rights approach to equality means Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service reaches beyond the protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010 and applies the same consideration of needs in relation to Human Rights. This means we consider issues beyond the ‘protected characteristics’ which could affect communities accessing our services or opportunities, such as rurality and economic deprivation our service delivery.
The Human Rights Act urges public authorities to apply a human rights framework to decision making across public services in order to achieve better service provision. Applying a ‘human rights framework’ means including core human rights values, such as equality, dignity, privacy, respect and involvement in decision making, whether a public service is being delivered directly to the public or a new plan or procedure is being devised.
The convention rights concern not only matters of life and death, such as freedom from torture and being killed, but also what people can say and do, and their beliefs. Rights can be grouped into three categories, absolute rights which the state can never take away, limited rights such as the right to liberty and qualified rights, which require a balance between the rights of individuals and the wider community.
Human rights include (but are not limited to) the right to:
- freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- liberty and security
- respect for private and family life
- freedom of expression
- freedom of assembly and association
- freedom of thought, conscience and religion