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Government accused of breaching international law on children’s rights

CRAE says that the Coalition has made progress in only 18 of 118 recommendations

A report from the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) accuses the coalition Government of systematically breaching international law that protects children's rights. The report – State of Children's Rights in England 2011 – Ministers are flouting The Ministerial Code which requires them to act in accordance with international law and their treaty obligations. 

Carolyne Willow, CRAE's national co-ordinator, said:

"The detailed evidence we have brought together is truly shocking for a country that first started to legislate to protect children over 100 years ago. It is simply unacceptable that 47 children last year died from deliberately inflicted abuse and neglect; that millions of children continue to live in poverty in our still rich country; that thousands of children each year are subject to appalling sexual crimes; and children's dignity and safety are being jeopardised by brutal restraint practices in prison. This is not where we should be twenty years after ratifying a children's rights treaty heralded as the Children's Magna Carta. The absence of a national plan of action, and resistance to a Children's Rights Act, is both shameful and perplexing: what is stopping our country taking the lead in children's rights?

"Ever since the UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, successive governments have proclaimed their commitment to it. The coalition Government even promised last year to put the treaty at the centre of law and policy affecting children. Yet the reality is that children up and down the country are being failed by a government that has barely begun to recognise, let alone address, the scale of rights violations suffered by them."

The CRAE maintain that whilst many other countries have made the Convention on the Rights of the Child part of their domestic law to ensure children's rights are adequately protected, there is currently only one small reference to the Convention in English law, relating to the Children's Commissioner.

When the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child last examined the UK's compliance with international children's rights law, it made 118 recommendations.

CRAE's latest review states that the coalition Government has:

The report can be downloaded here.

Commenting on the Children's Rights Alliance for England's report, Maggie Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England, said:

"The Children's Rights Alliance for England's report is a timely reminder of the UK's progress against this important international human rights treaty. The 20th anniversary of the UK government signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is imminent.  Since this date, we have seen steady and welcome work being done to realise children's rights in this country, including the government's first-ever action plan on children's rights in 2009, the pledge to end the detention of children for immigration purposes and more children than ever are consulted on matters affecting their lives. However, there is also much to reflect on and in some areas England's children are not being treated fairly when their treatment is set against the Conventions' standards.  This unfairness is seen especially in the lives of children in the youth justice system, those excluded from schools, and those living in families whose incomes levels have been hit severely by the current economic climate so that they are in, or it is likely they will face falling into, poverty. The government's next reporting cycle to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child commences in 2014. Between now and then, I will continue to monitor and report on what we do to ensure all our children have the best lives possible."