Blog: Cost of Living Crisis

With the cost of living crisis a key issue facing the third sector, THRE team member Alice Tucker looks at how it can be approached from a human rights perspective.

The effects of the cost of living crisis in the UK pose a challenge to the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to social security, in addition to having a negative impact on other rights, such as children’s right to education through children facing conditions which are incompatible with learning. Ultimately, the cost of living crisis will deepen the inequalities that already exist within the UK, with those already experiencing hardship likely to be worst off as a result.

 

For the third sector, this crisis has serious repercussions. For those involved in service delivery, there is increased pressure on service provision both for organisations directly working on poverty alleviation and those working in areas which are impacted by rises in socioeconomic inequality, such as mental health support services.

 

The crisis once again highlights the crucial role the sector has as advocates for the communities we serve, for example, as fuel costs continue to rise, charities working with those who are more likely to be reliant on off-grid fuel, such as communities living in the Highlands and Islands, and traveller communities will face a growing need to advocate for and support such groups.

 

It is not just the people the sector supports who are being impacted, the charity sector has long been acknowledged as low paying compared to other sectors, and recent figures show 2.3 million of those claiming Universal Credit are in employment

 

This leaves the sector facing the challenge of how to support its employees as well as the communities they serve at a time when there is growing concern over how homes will be heated and mortgages will be paid this winter.

 

The question that third sector organisations across Scotland now face is how to adequately respond to the growing need for our services, whilst responding to staff’s needs and increasing overhead costs.

 

There is no easy answer to this question. However, the principles of human rights provide some guidance on how to approach the issues that will be facing charities across Scotland.

 

Human rights are built upon the principles of fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy. These principles act as a framework for decision-making which is person-centred. At a time when human rights are facing significant challenges within the UK, this focus on how decisions will impact the basic needs of those we support is essential. For example how would your organisation answer the questions:

Fairness – Is what’s expected of employees reasonable?

Respect – Are the needs of employees, service users and volunteers being meaningfully considered?

Equality – Are service users equally able to access services, with barriers to access being addressed? Is every staff member given the same opportunity to succeed, regardless of individual circumstances?

Dignity – Is every staff member and service user being treated with dignity? Working within a cold space or making decisions between food and fuel are examples of when dignity is not being respected.

Autonomy – Are all staff members, volunteers and service users being given the opportunity to have a say regarding decisions which will affect them? It is impossible to consider stakeholders’ needs if there are no safe channels for the needs to be voiced.

 

These are just guiding points, and the questions that organisations must be considering at this time will vary based on their individual mission and circumstance. However, THRE encourages organisations, no matter what their size or purpose, to consider the principles of human rights as they respond to the current cost of living crisis.

 

For more information on the cost of living crisis as a human rights issue, please visit The Legal Journal’s recent blog post. For organisational support, third sector organisations can contact their local TSI organisation(s) and SCVO has launched a dedicated webpage compiling the support they are currently offering.