ANNEX 4: CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE'S
UNIT: BRIEFING ON THE CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS OF THE UN COMMITTEE
ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, OCTOBER 2002
The UK Government is fully committed to the principles
of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Government has made strenuous efforts to put
the interests of children and young people at the heart of government,
and will continue to work towards this aim.
In recent years, we have made significant progress
to protect and promote the wellbeing of children and young people
and we welcome the recognition by the UN Committee of the Steps
we have taken. But we recognise that there is still more work
that needs to be done.
We will consider the Committee's Concluding Observations
carefully as we develop our overarching strategy for children
and young people.
The Government has made the reform of the youth justice
system central to its policy agenda. That includes ensuring the
system addresses the particular challenges of dealing with children
and young people. Reducing and preventing youth crime and delinquency,
and reforming the youth justice system are a major part of the
Government's effort to build safer communities and tackle social
exclusion. It also wants to prevent young people offending in
the first place. The programmes it has introduced begin a long
way before contact with the youth justice system. They work with
the Government's wider efforts to combat social exclusion.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 established preventing
offending as the principal aim of the youth justice system and
placed a statutory duty on all those working in the youth justice
system to have regard to that aim.
There is a downward trend in male juvenile offenders
being held in custody with over 18s. A very small number of girls
are held in over 18 prison service accommodation and we are looking
to address this.
There are already a range of mechanisms in place
to promote and protect children's interests in England and we
need to be convinced that any new structures will make a real
difference to the lives of children & young people. That's
why we are monitoring closely developments in the Devolved Administrations
to see what lessons their experiences have for us.
The Government is absolutely opposed to violence
and abuse against children. The law only allows what is reasonable
in terms of the physical punishment of childrenit does
not permit child abuse. We recognise that parenting can be difficult,
but we must avoid heavy-handed intrusion into family life. The
Convention refers to the protection of children from physical
violence and maltreatment. The Government is satisfied that UK
law is in line with these provisions.
We believe our policy reflects common sense views
of the vast majority of people. It is not only wrong but dangerous
to link smacking and child abuse deaths. It diverts attention
from those children most at risk.
We have recently announced preventive measures to
be put in place next year to support children at risk by local
services joining up and sharing information.
We agree that the levels of child poverty in the
UK are unacceptable. That's why the Prime Minister made his central
commitment to abolish child poverty in a generation. And we are
making progress. Not on every front, but in important ways. We
are beginning to reverse the legacy we found when we came to office
of one of the worst records of child poverty in the industrialised
Today a quarter of a million fewer children are growing
up in homes where no one has a job than in 1997
1.4 million fewer children are living in absolute
poverty than in 1996/97
Over half a million fewer children are living in
relative poverty than in 1996/7
We have ensured record increases in Child Benefit,
up over 25% in real terms since 1997
As a result of personal tax and employment measures
all families with children are on average £1,200 a year better
off. All increases are targeted with the result that families
in the poorest 20% are on average £2,400 a year better off.
Significantly more children are achieving level 4
in Key Stage 2 tests in literacy and numeracy
Teenage pregnancy is down and there are more teenage
mothers in education, training or workup from 16% in 1997
to 33% in 2001.
The interests of asylum seeking children and young
people are fully respected. The basic human rights of children
are protected under the Human Rights Act, which applies to the
protection of all children in the UK without exception.
The Government remains of the opinion that the Reservation
is justified in the interests of effective immigration control.
However, this does not prevent the UK from having regard to the
Convention in its care and treatment of children. Moreover, the
basic human rights of children are protected under the Human Rights
Act, which applies to all children in the UK without exception.
It does not think that, given its commitment to the
welfare of children, having the Reservation should lead to neglect
of their care and welfare. It considers that, notwithstanding
the Reservation, there are sufficient social and legal mechanisms
in place to ensure that children receive a generous level of protection
and care whilst they are in the UK.
The UK is fully committed to the Convention's provisions
on Child Soldiers. Indeed, we intend to ratify the Convention's
Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
The ratification process will begin in November 2002.