Human Rights Commission to take legal action on housing points scheme
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has issued a legal challenge against the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Department for Communities.
It relates to the allocation of intimidation points under the Housing Selection Scheme.
Chief Commissioner of the NIHRC, Alyson Kilpatrick, said:
“The Commission has issued proceedings because we consider that the current application of the Housing Selection Scheme’s criteria for points, in particular intimidation points, is unlawful.
It is our position that the limitations and inconsistent provision of points for social housing fails to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of people who are very vulnerable. This is compounded by the absence of an appeal process to review and challenge relevant decisions made by the Housing Executive.
Both in design and implementation, we believe the scheme does not properly consider people’s circumstances and fails to address domestic violence, gender-based violence, the intimidation of individuals from within their own community or the real impact of anti-social behaviour.”
All queries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to ongoing legal proceedings the Commission will not be conducting media interviews.
- The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.
- The statutory functions of the Commission are available on our website, which include to keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice relating to the protection of human rights in Northern Ireland. The Commission has issued this challenge under its own motion powers, provided for under s.71(2B) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which enables a legal challenge without reference to an individual victim.
- For information related to the legal proceedings read the Commission’s Fact Sheet on the case through the following link: Fact Sheet: Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission legal action on housing points scheme | Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (nihrc.org)
- What human rights are engaged in this case?
- The Commission is arguing that a number of rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are engaged.
- Article 2 – The right to life. The Commission recognises that individuals lives could be in danger as a result of not being awarded enough points to move up the waiting list for rehoming based on The Scheme.
- Article 3 – Freedom from torture, inhuman & degrading treatment. The Commission believes that the limitations of The Scheme could result in increased risk to individuals’ mental and physical integrity. For example, in instances of domestic violence a victim may be forced to stay with an abuser because they do not receive the number of points needed to move them up the waiting list but cannot stay in the temporary accommodation they are being offered as it might be unsuitable for children.
- Article 6 – The right to a fair trial. The Commission argues that there is no proper formal appeals process within The Scheme. There should be a process in place whereby individuals are able to obtain the reasons for decisions made and a mechanism to appeal.
- Article 8 – The right to private and family life. The Commission believes that the impact of The Scheme is detrimental to those who do not receive or qualify for intimidation points and who cannot return to their current residence. They are at risk of homelessness, not safe at home or relying on hostels.
- Article 14 – The right to non-discrimination protects the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the ECHR are secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. The Commission is arguing that the limitations and inconsistencies in the application of the Scheme may discriminate against individuals in the enjoyment of their rights, protected under articles 2, 3, 6, and 8 of the ECHR.
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