The Equality and Human Rights Commission is calling for evidence from service users of public authorities such as hospitals, government and schools to find out if people are being treated with dignity and respect.

In an effort to get an accurate picture of how the Human Rights Act is working and what improvements can be made the EHRC is asking people to fill in a short questionnaire to tell the inquiry about their experiences, both good and bad.

The Commission wants to know from anyone who has used human rights arguments to challenge the way they were treated by a public service.

It would also like to hear from service providers who treat people fairly by adopting a human rights-based approach.

The questionnaire is part of a wider inquiry, which aims to “examine how the current human rights framework might be developed and used to realise the vision of a society built on fairness and respect and confident in all aspects of it diversity.”

“Human rights legislation has been used to help individuals, such as the elderly and disabled people, who are faced with indignity at the hands of the state,” said Chair of the Commission, Trevor Phillips.

“It should help those who are at risk from the heavy-handed application of authority.

“The Commission wants to build an active human rights culture and if we are successful, human rights principles, as basic principles of decency and dignity, will be embedded into public authorities’ approach to service delivery.”

The EHRC is designed to promote a fair, equal and diverse society and tackling illegal discrimination.

It was established by the Equality Act 2006 and began work in October 2007.

It brought together the three existing UK equality commissions – the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission.

The EHRC incorporates three new human rights strands – age, sexual orientation and religion and belief.

The inquiry will initially be restricted to England and Wales. Once the Scottish Commission for Human Rights is operational, the inquiry may be extended to Scotland.

Under the Human Rights Act, “public authorities” includes both those bodies which would usually be thought of as public authorities (like local authorities) but also private or voluntary organisations when they are carrying out public functions.

For more information about the Inquiry and to download a call for evidence response form, please visit the Commission’s website.

Forms should be sent by 21st June 2008.

A poll for the EHRC released last month showed that the term ‘human rights’ still prompts mixed reactions from a large population of the British public.

According to the survey, 40% of people have either not heard the phrase ‘human rights’, are unable to name any of the protected rights or don’t know if they support the legislation.