Access to justice for social rights: addressing the accountability gap

This project examines the barriers faced across the UK’s jurisdictions in seeking access to justice for violations of the right to a decent standard of living, which encompasses rights to adequate housing, social security, and freedom from poverty – including fuel and food poverty.

A number of international and domestic legal experts have suggested that the four jurisdictions of the UK are not fully meeting their international obligations in relation to social rights. This may relate both to people’s enjoyment of the right and on their access to justice when the right is violated. Interviews with a range of stakeholders, including lawyers and charity professionals as well as rights-holders, will inform an assessment of whether this is indeed the case across different countries, groups and institutions.

The team are also undertaking a detailed analysis of how laws relating to the right to an adequate standard of living operate in the UK jurisdictions and in other countries comparatively, and how they map on to international human rights obligations. Where gaps are identified, they will formulate recommendations for how to embed good practice early on in decision-making, as well as proposals for new legal structures and innovative remedies.

The focus of the project is particularly timely given debates around the rights agenda related to Brexit, progressive human rights reform in the devolved jurisdictions, and changes to social security provision. The project will be informed by developments in Scotland and Wales that seek to better protect social rights, outstanding reform relating to rights in Northern Ireland as part of the peace process, and the proposed changes to the established legal protection of rights at the national level. The project offers both an international, comparative and devolved lens on human rights in the UK.

Project details



Dr Katie Boyle, University of Stirling


Grant ammount and duration 

£338,227 over 37 months

February 2019 – February 2022