This month saw the publication of the latest report and recommendations from the United Nations about how well (or not!) they think the UK is doing in respect of children’s rights.
The report gives recommendations about how the UK might improve its efforts to be more rights-based. This can include anything, but the broad areas mentioned in this reports include things like:
- Further improving current good practice
- Repealing laws that hold back the progress of children’s rights in practice
- Identifying areas where more resources are needed
- Making policy suggestions for future legislation
- …and so on.
Vulnerable groups mentioned
Rights of any kind tend to be most tested in circumstances where the people concerned are vulnerable; in this case, children.
While there are specific groups of children whom the UN highlights for specific mention, it’s worth noting which groups came up repeatedly in the report – this gives us a flavour of where children’s rights are being most robustly tested. Or, perhaps more importantly, those groups who have not yet been afforded in practice the rights the convention says they should have.
Here are the groups singled out for particular attention by the report:
- asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children – including those in migration detention centres
- children with disabilities
- children in care
- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children
- young carers
- socioeconomically disadvantaged children (I think that just means, ‘poor’ children of low social status – which the poor always are!)
- children from minority groups, including: Roma, Gypsy, Traveller, refugee, migrant and asylum-seeking children
- children in the justice system, including in police custody, in prison (YOIs & SCHs), going through the courts, whose parents are in prison, who give evidence, etc.
- those suffering domestic violence, modern slavery, those at risk of being trafficked and/or exploited
- children detained on mental health grounds or secure welfare accommodation
- children who are ‘digitally excluded’ – who can’t function in the digital age because access to computers is lacking
Without reading any further, it’s clear form this list alone that there are a LOT of children groups in our country that are still not afforded their rights.
The very fact that some of these things exist at all in a modern 21st century culture – slavery, exploitation, child trafficking – is an indictment.
Broad areas for improvement:
A blog post of this size can’t capture everything – for that I suggest you download the report and have a look for yourself – but I want to give a flavour of the kinds of things the UN think we (those of us in the UK) can do to improves things.
So here are a few things that jumped out to me:
- Reconsider the decision to replace the human rights act (or make sure any replacement gives at least the same protection to children’s rights)
- Examine how leaving the European Union might effect children’s rights
- Address the high level of avoidable child deaths (& strengthen efforts to prevent suicide & self-harming behaviours)
- Ditch the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which ‘validated’ previous decisions found to be ‘unlawful’ by the courts
- Include transgender, intersex & LGB children in decisions affecting gender recognition
- Ensure children are not threatened for exercising their right to freedom of association & peaceful assembly (including involvement in climate activism)
- Improve digital inclusion for children living in disadvantaged situations
- Stop the use of strip searches, solitary confinement & tasers (and the like) on children
- Implement the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
- Have a national database for missing children
- Protect children from gang-based violence and knife crime
- Develop national strategies to deal with female genital mutilation, child marriage & ‘honour-based’ violence against children
- Take measures to reduce the number of children in alternative care
- Prohibit the holding of learning disabled & autistic children in adult psychiatric units & police stations
- Reduce long waiting times for accessing mental health services
- Address the overuse of school exclusions & ‘off-rolling’…
And on it goes.
This summary blog post can only ever be a exactly that – a summary. I’d really encourage child care professionals to read this report – it will certainly undermine any creeping complacency about the state of children’s right in the UK.
For me, the thing that struck me most was the sheer number and broad spread of areas in UK systems and practices that need still urgent improvement!
Perhaps most worrying of all is the number of backwards steps taken by recent UK governments, not least in undermining the right of minority groups, including those arriving here from overseas.
I, for one, will be exercising my vote in the next general election with an eye towards children’s rights…
What do you think?…
Please let me know your thoughts… Leave a comment below.
More info & related previous posts:
– Learn more about & download a copy of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: click here
– Download the current report – here
– Being Child-Centred: Is It A Thing? Read it here. This is a series of 4 posts.
Pass it on…
© Jonny Matthew 2023