While progress remains stunted at Stormont and the Secretary of State promises a Westminster Budget Bill to “protect the delivery of public services in Northern Ireland”, the people responsible for caring for the vulnerable in our society our taking matters into their own hands.

Frontline staff – care givers, homeless support officers, childcare providers, advice workers, and many more – are launching a Human Rights Monitor of the services provided across the community and voluntary sectors in Northern Ireland. The Monitor, organised by the UNISON Community and Voluntary Branch, aims to gain a comprehensive picture of frontline services, how they are or are not meeting the needs and fulfilling the rights of the vulnerable, and how the situation is impacting both staff and people accessing the services.

Niall McCarroll, UNISON Community and Voluntary spokesperson, said

For the last number of years we have witnessed our members being forced to deliver care to people under unacceptable conditions – affecting both the quality of the services and the well-being of both the workers and the individuals. This is not an accident and it is not acceptable. When the state tries to deliver services on the cheap, reduces health and safety regulation regimes, degrades and undermines the skills of the people delivering the services and threatens their health – then what you get is a mounting crisis.”

We are witnessing growing homelessness in a climate of scarce hostel beds, growing suicides amidst unacceptable waiting for counselling services, severely disabled and sick people being subjected to invasive and punitive assessments and put in harm’s way through back to work regimes.”

As people who spend each and every day in service of some of the most marginalised groups in our society, we feel we have a responsibility to take action. The first step is making the public fully aware of the conditions within these services. We plan to speak up and tell the public what is going on.”

The ‘Right to Just and Favourable Conditions of Work: A Human Rights Monitor of the Community and Voluntary Sector’ will audit a range of areas including staffing levels, working hours, bullying & harassment, health & safety, training, and the ability of organisations to speak critically of government policy when required. The monitor is being rolled out across the region and across the sector with a launch date of early 2018. It is open to all workers in the community and voluntary sectors.

The Monitor is being supported by Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) - a human rights organisation, founded by the late Inez McCormack, whose work was cited by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as global example of best practice on how people can claim their rights.

Fill in the Monitor on-line here

Download a copy of the Monitor here.

If you have any questions or wish to return hard copies of completed surveys contact Niall McCarroll at nmccarollunison@gmail.com or 0771271710.