55. Memorandum from Laura Dent
As a member of Right Here Right Now I believe
that England needs a Children's Rights Commissioner, and so do
other children and young people that I talk to. For those 11.3
million children and young people in England, I believe that they
are discriminating, in many ways. Such as:
They are not being listened to when
laws and policies are made that affect them. This is an infringement
of their rights, as Article 12 of the UN Convention states that
"all children and young people should be listened to when
any decisions are made affecting them". However, I feel the
government are starting to consult with us, for instance on changes
in Education. Also yourselves with being the first parliamentary
committee to ask for evidence from children and young people.
There is also racial and age discrimination;
take for example shop keepers who only allow two school children
in at a time. Why is this? I tell you this is because people think
just because we are young we steal, but why is it that it is known
the majority of adults steal. Where is the fairness in this?
We are also being unfairly treated
as many children and young people don't know they have rights
as a child; if they do then they don't know how to use these rights.
I feel that I am in the small minority that know my rights. At
the moment children and young people probably learn about their
rights through non-Government organisations such as CRAE, local
youth councils. Some may also learn through school, but I personally
believe this is untrue. Could this be because not only do children
and young people not know their rights, but neither do parents
nor teachers? All children and young people should be made aware
of their rightsthis could be done through those who have
direct contact with children and young people. This of course
could be further implemented if there was a Children's Rights
Commissioner in place.
I believe that we should have a Children's Rights
Commissioner as there are 11.3 million under 18 year olds in England.
We need to have somebody who will listen to our views/opinions,
and then pass this information on to those who can make change.
Without this link children and young people will carry on being
ignored when changes are made concerning them. Such things as
the Children and Young People's Unit and the Minister for young
people work. But there also needs to be a main person that children
and young people can contact if problems arise. This person would
also need to monitor, promote and protect the UN Convention on
the Rights of a Child.
Children and young people in England don't feel
it is fair that Scotland, Wales and Ireland have or are in the
process of appointing a Children's Rights Commissioner. It is
felt that England may be getting left behind, when a commissioner
would be beneficial to the country. Commissioners have proven
to work in other countries, and it is a way of getting the voices
heard of children and young people. If the Government decided
to appoint a Children's Rights Commissioner then hopefully this
would help to make England a children's rights friendly country.
The Government would need to consult with children and young people
to find out the type of person the commissioner should be and
the work that they would do. I believe that on children's issues
consultations with children and young people is the best idea
as then the Government will be getting the opinions from us and
not just adults who think they are children.
I would like to end by saying that the organisation
who I feel has done the most for children's rights is the Children's
Rights Alliance for England. They have done so many campaigns:
such as child poverty, smacking and the campaign for a Children's
Rights Commissioner. In all of these projects they have consulted
with children and young people, of various ages and backgrounds.
They also help children and young people understand their rights
and how to use them. Without CRAE I would probably be amongst
the majority of children and young people who don't know about
As part of its inquiry into the Case for a Human
Rights Commission, members of the Committee expressed an interest
as to whether a human rights culture had permeated into public
authorities, and how this could be demonstrated. Public bodies
are bound by the Human Rights Act, and could represent the first
point of contact with the Human Rights Act for many people.
The Clerk of the Committee wrote to a sample
of organisations asking for information on how they were mainstreaming
human rights into their culture. The organisations approached
are listed below, and their responses complied in the same order.
1. Commission for Local Administration (Wales)
2. Commission for Local Administration (England)
3. Commission for Local Administration (Scotland)
4. Police Complaints Authority
5. HM Inspectorate of Probation
6. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary
7. Mental Health Act Commission
8. Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED)
9. HM Inspectorate of Prisons (Scotland)
10. Office of the Rail Regulator
11. HM Inspectorate of Prisons (England
12. Inspectorate of Social Services
13. Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
14. HM Inspectorate for Education and Training
in Wales (ESTYN).
The Health Service Ombudsman for England, Scotland
or Wales has not responded.
The following is an example of the letter, showing
the questions asked:
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is a Select
Committee of both Houses of Parliament. One of its functions is
to report to each House on matters relating to human rights in
the United Kingdom. As part of its exercise of this function,
the Committee is conducting an inquiry into whether there is a
need for a Human Rights Commission for the United Kingdom.
Some of the evidence received by the Committee
suggests that a Human Rights Commission might perform a useful
role in helping to engender and "mainstream" a human
rights culture among public authorities. It has been suggested
that this might be done in several ways, among which are
providing education and advice to
impressing on authorities the important
ways in which human rights values can aid good administration
and raise standards of public service; and
monitoring the extent to which public
authorities and their staffs internalise, and give effect to,
the values of human rights in their day-to-day work.
In order to assess the need for a Commission
to advance these aims, the Committee is seeking information about
the extent to which existing bodies, with responsibilities for
inspecting, auditing or monitoring the performance of public authorities,
are already performing that role.
The Committee would therefore be grateful for
answers to the following questions about the work of your own
1. Does compliance with human rights form
one of the criteria by reference to which you assess the performance
of the public authorities with which you deal?
2. Does the establishment of a culture of
human rights, including inculcating recognition among staff of
the administrative and public-service benefits of establishing
a human rights culture, form one of the criteria by reference
to which you assess the performance of the public authorities
with which you deal?
3. If the answer to question 1 or question
2 is "yes", please explain the way in which your inspection
of a public authority establishes and takes account of relevant
matters, and the way in which your assessment is reflected in
your report. (Examples of reports which give attention to these
matters would be very helpful.)
4. Do you maintain any records of the performance
of the public authorities with which you deal in (a) complying
with human rights requirements, and/or (b) establishing a human
rights culture within their organisations? If so, are there any
general or particular lessons which you feel it would be worth
bringing to the attention of the Committee?
5. Do you offer advice and assistance about
(a) compliance with human rights, and/or (b) establishing a culture
of human rights among staff, to the public authorities with which
6. If the answer to either part of question
5 is "yes", do you offer that advice (a) proactively
or only in response to a request from the authority or a perceived
difficulty or shortcoming, and (b) continuously or only at the
time of periodic inspections or reviews? Please provide examples
of your practice if possible.
7. If you do not currently (a) use human
rights as one of your assessment criteria, and/or (b) offer advice
on human rights matters to the public authorities with which you
deal, do you have any plans to do so in the future?