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Britain’s Children’s Commissioners call for UNCRC to be incorporated into domestic law

Assessment of children’s rights marks thirtieth anniversary of UNCRC

The Children's Commissioners for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have called for "the full, direct and urgent incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law" in each of the home countries. They say that it should also be a requirement for all impact analysis of new legislation in the UK to include a section on the effect on children's rights.

The demands are included in an assessment by the Children's Commissioners of the UK's progress on children's rights, which marks the thirtieth anniversary of the UNCRC.

The assessment by all four of Britain's Children's Commissioners looks at how the UK Government and devolved administrations have progressed towards giving every child the opportunities and protections enshrined in the UNCRC since then. It comes against a backdrop of political uncertainty and a forthcoming general election in which, they say, Brexit has drawn political energy and attention away from domestic issues, including the needs of children.

The assessment shows that some progress has been made, with plans in place across much of the UK to improve help for children with mental health needs, new measures for tackling domestic abuse, which affects hundreds of thousands of children a year, and Scotland passing legislation which bans physical punishment of children. The Commissioner also praises the UK promise to protect children online, with the introduction of the Age Appropriate Design Code.

However, the Children's Commissioners also warn that recent changes to welfare have pushed more children into poverty, which in turn increases demand for services for children. Yet these services also continue to face significant funding pressures, and are not always able to provide the intensive or early help children need. The Commissioners warn that the UK Government and its devolved governments can only uphold the rights of all children to be safe and to thrive with adequate provision of these services.

The Commissioners also highlight serious deficiencies when it comes to the fundamentals of keeping children safe from violence and abuse.  Some children are being ill-treated in institutions meant to care for them, and others are exposed to unacceptable risks in their communities. The Children's Commissioners use their assessment to call for children's rights to be respected, and for all children to be given the protections and opportunities to which they are entitled.

The Children's Commissioner for England makes a number of specific demands to politicians fighting a General Election, including:

A bill to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law should introduced with urgency in every nation to mark the 30th anniversary. It should be a requirement for all impact analysis of new legislation in the UK to include a section on the effect on children's rights.

For the assessment, click here.