Earlier this month, the Scottish Government released guidance on taking a children’s human rights approach. The document was developed to provide information and resources to support public authorities and other organisations in implementing a children’s human rights approach. The guidance covers the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the UNCRC (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill, methods to imbed children’s human rights approaches in areas such as practice, decision-making, budget allocation, and inclusive communication, and how the UNCRC links to other policy areas.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
The UNCRC is the internationally mandated children’s rights that set out the rights that all children and young people have. It outlines what children need to give them the best chance of growing up happy, safe, and healthy. It also looks at how adults and governments should work together to make sure all children can access all their rights.
The UNCRC helps safeguard the dignity and the equal rights of children and young people by making sure that important rights set out in other international human rights treaties are applied in a way that is relevant and appropriate to the needs of children and young people.
UNCRC (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill
The purpose of the UNCRC (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill was to bring the UNCRC into Scots law, the legal system of Scotland. It will also put measures in place to achieve a culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland. This bill would make Scotland the first country in the United Kingdom and the first devolved country in the world to directly incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law. The bill will make it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements when acting under powers conferred by or under Acts of the Scottish Parliament or common law.
The bill will also give powers to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and the Scottish Human Rights Commission to take legal action to protect children’s rights. The bill notes that the Scottish Government will have to publish an annual report on the actions taken and planned by the Parliament and its committees to secure better and further effect of the rights of children. It will also have to carry out a child rights and well-being impact assessment with respect of new primary and secondary legislation from the Scottish Parliament and certain decisions of a strategic nature that relate to the rights and well-being of children.
Children’s Human Rights Approach
The document provides information that may be useful for any organisation that want to implement a children’s human rights approach. The information is based on the children’s human rights approach developed by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. The approach from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales is described as “a principled and practical framework for working with children, grounded in the UNCRC. It is about placing the UNCRC at the core of planning and service delivery and integrating children’s human rights into every aspect of decision-making, policy, and practice”.
The approach is made up of five principles. The first is embedding and involves putting children’s human rights at the core of planning and the delivery of services that affect children and young people. This can be helped by implementing Child Rights Impact Assessments (CRIA). These are internationally recognised as a means of upholding and fulfilling children’s rights in the decision-making process and are on the general measure of implementation under the UNCRC. The second principle is Equality and non-discrimination. This requires ensuring that every child or young person has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.
The third principle is empowerment. This involves giving children the knowledge and confidence to use their rights and hold organisations and individuals that affect their lives to account. The fourth is participation which requires us to listen to children and take their views seriously.
The final principle is accountability. Organisations and individuals should be accountable to children for the decisions and actions which affect their lives.
Links to other regulations and duties
The document also outlines how the UNCRC is linked to other policy areas and duties such as Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), the Sottish framework for promoting, supporting, and safeguarding the wellbeing of children and young people. It also shows how the UNCRC is linked to other polices such as child services planning and The Promise implementation plan which set out the Scottish Government’s actions to reform the care system for children, young people, and their families.
Early Childhood Ireland’s vision involves putting the child at the centre of our work. This can be seen in our Budget 2024 Submission which included a proposal for Aistear to be built on, as part of increasing investment, to include the philosophy of the Reggio Emilia Approach. This would ensure that the rights of children are interlinked with educators, families, and communities. In February, a new series of Early Childhood Ireland Explainers will be released, focusing on Quality for children. This series will include Explainers on children’s rights and the Reggio Emilia Approach.
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If you have any questions regarding this document, please contact our policy team.