Dedicated Children’s Minister needed to ensure children’s rights are properly considered

(Title Image: Senedd Cymru)

Education & Young People Committee
Children’s Rights in Wales (pdf)
Published: 26th August 2020

  • Committee recommends a dedicated Ministerial role for Children & Young People and that the Welsh Cabinet should undertake children’s rights training.
  • Children’s Commissioner: Wales should aim to achieve the best international standards in children’s rights.
  • Committee recommends the Senedd should appoint and fund the Children’s Commissioner.
  • Low levels of awareness of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“There is a lack of reference to children’s rights in key strategic documents and insufficient evidence that the duties in the Measure are being considered and exercised across the whole of the Welsh Government.

“This demonstrates to us that children’s rights are not driving the Welsh Government’s decision-making as the (Rights of Children & Young Persons Measure 2011) intended.”
– Committee Chair, Lynne Neagle MS (Lab, Torfaen)

The inquiry was post-legislative scrutiny focusing on the effectiveness of the Rights of Children & Young Persons Measure 2011 which enshrined the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Welsh law. There are 54 articles granting children, amongst other things, a right to education and a right to protection from abuse and discrimination.

Measure makes a positive influence on decision-making but children’s rights are increasingly invisible

The Committee was told of several examples where the Measure has resulted in a positive impact, notably a “right to play”.

Children’s Commissioner, Prof. Sally Holland, is proud of Wales’ record on children’s rights, but instead of comparing ourselves to the rest of the UK, thought Wales would be better placed aiming to achieve the “very best international standards”.

However, there is little mention of children’s rights in key government strategy documents such as Prosperity for All, with fears that child-specific policies were being dropped in favour of all-age inclusive ones. Similarly, Child Rights Impact Assessments – when they are carried out – lacked depth and failed to properly engage young people in the process.

Know your rights

65% of people who took part in the 2017-18 National Survey hadn’t heard of children’s rights and only 13% had a thorough understanding of what the UNCRC meant. There was broad agreement that awareness needs to be improved.

Contrary to the popular trope of misbehaving children “knowing their rights”, awareness of the UNCRC amongst children and young people was low-to-variable with schools doing little to promote it and a general misunderstanding of how rights are applied in practice.

In terms of listening to young people, the Committee was proud that the Welsh Youth Parliament was established in 2018. Significant steps were also being taken to ensure young people had a say on policy matters which directly affected them, such as the new national curriculum and mental health.

In a series of workshops, children said they were particularly concerned about their rights when it came to exposure to drugs, bullying, dealing with the criminal justice system and social barriers caused by poverty (i.e. being unable to take part in school trips).

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