Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

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 rights—this 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 their rights.


  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 and Wales)

  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 authorities;

    —  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 organisation.

  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 you deal?

  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?

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