1998 Human Rights Act: Social Work's New Benchmark

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The 1998 Human Rights Act makes the European Convention on Human Rights directly enforceable by the United Kingdom's courts and tribunals. This represents a major constitutional change and will allow statute law and common law to be assessed, or reassessed, according to the rights laid down in the Convention. This has many implications for social work policy makers, managers and practitioners. It will require the Convention rights to be at the heart of social work practice. The ability of service users to challenge decisions by social services departments will no longer be dependent upon the traditional approach to judicial review. Compliance with the Convention will now feature in legal challenges. It is essential that the practice of social work embraces the principles outlined in the Convention. In many respects, they are rights that practitioners and others recognize as being basic expectations of service users, and making them directly enforceable can only be for the good. However, we should not underestimate the effect that the legislation will have. This article outlines the legal effects of the 1998 Human Rights Act and illustrates them by reference to examples from social work practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-844
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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