Family life, and rest, leisure and cultural activities – UK Government assessment
There have been legal or policy changes to improve human rights protections but very limited evidence of sustained improvements in the enjoyment of human rights on this issue
The UK Government has introduced some positive reforms in relation to family life, including action to tackle child marriage and the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. However, there are concerns about the impact of the termination of the EU’s Dublin III Regulation on family reunification. Temporary restrictions introduced to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) have negatively affected people’s access to arts, leisure and other cultural activities and their enjoyment of family life, with particular implications for people in residential care settings and other institutions.
- The introduction of ‘no fault divorce’, which will come into effect in autumn 2021, is expected to lead to reduced acrimony and conflict in some divorces.
- The UK Government is yet to introduce any reform of legally unrecognised religious marriages, leaving many Muslim women vulnerable and unprotected by the law. Research from independent think tank Civitas suggests that potentially over 60% of Muslim women in the UK are in religious-only marriages, unaware that they are not afforded the same legal rights as those protected in a civil union.
- The UK Government’s commitment to raise the minimum legal age of marriage to 18 in England and Wales responds to concerns that the current law, which allows marriage from 16 years old with parental consent, leaves people vulnerable to coercion into child marriage. In 2019, there were 3,775 unaccompanied children asylum applications made in the UK, a 15% increase from 2016.
- The UK remains one of the few European countries not permitting child refugees to sponsor close relatives to join them.
- There are concerns about the impact of the UK no longer being bound by the EU Dublin III Regulation on the right to family life for migrants, including unaccompanied children, in particular that the narrower eligibility requirements and definition of family within the UK’s immigration rules will reduce family reunification.
- The placement of children in unregulated accommodation rose by 54% from 2016 to 2019, and one in 10 children in care moved home at least twice in 2018–2019.
- Research shows that in England people of lower socio-economic status, people with physical impairments and ethnic minority people continue to experience reduced access to greenspace.
- Closures and restrictions on arts, entertainment and recreation facilities the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have affected people’s access to leisure and cultural activities, with both short- and long-term implications for the sustainability of these sectors.
- Between mid-March and mid-May 2020, the number of adults in England meeting the physical activity guidelines fell by 7.1% compared with the previous year, with the closure of leisure centres, gyms and sports clubs forcing changes in behaviour.
- Disabled people were disproportionately affected by measures limiting access to public spaces and physical activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the first lockdown, twice as many disabled people felt that COVID-19 had ‘greatly reduced’ their ability to do physical activities or sport compared to non-disabled people, affecting both their mental and physical health.
- Restrictions on visits to residential care settings and other institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic – put in place to protect the right to life – have led to restrictions of other human rights, including respect for private and family life.
- The ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty ensured the continuity of access to prints of copyright works for visually impaired people following the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Read more about the UK Government’s actions on family life, and rest, leisure and cultural activities.