Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

7. Memorandum from Children's Rights Alliance for England


  In July 2002, CRAE gave oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. With other NGOs, we answered questions about the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in particular policy areas. We outlined our serious concerns about breaches in children's Convention rights in relation to:

    —  Persisting high levels of child poverty and inequality.

    —  The failure of the UK Government to protect children from all forms of violence, in particular its refusal to remove the reasonable chastisement defence.

    —  The discriminatory treatment of young asylum-seekers and refugees.

    —  The treatment of children in the juvenile justice system, in particular in relation to the growing use of custody, the detention of younger children and the unequal access of locked up children to education, health and child protection services.

  In addition, we raised concerns about the general implementation of the CRC, especially in relation to the lack of Government commitment to date to establishing an independent human rights institution for children in England.

  There was a general view among NGOs that we have a government that is in many respects extremely committed to promoting children's welfare. However, it was observed that this Government does not yet appear comfortable with the "language of rights" or prepared to embrace its human rights obligations to children. It is in the more intractable and difficult areas of policy—corporal punishment, juvenile justice, asylum and immigration—that this lack of political commitment to children's human rights fully exposes itself. Paradoxically, in these areas of Government policy, progress for children will only come through an absolute commitment to children's human rights. These issues are addressed in more detail in sections 4 to 7 below.


  The Committee's review of children's human rights in the UK is a huge development for children, especially for those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland—for these 13 million citizens have no official body outside government to monitor, promote and protect their rights. While the Committee can in no way meet the broad functions of an independent human rights institution (as set out in the Paris Principles adopted by the UN in 1993), it is an essential watchdog.

  The work the Joint Human Rights Committee undertakes in relation to scrutinising Bills for compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998 has proven to be of value to children as well as to adults. While not all of the Committee's observations have been accepted by the Government, they nevertheless have contributed significantly to debates—recently in relation to the treatment of asylum-seekers and to the reforms proposed in the draft Mental Health Bill (which has now been dropped). We note that the Committee on occasion comments on the compatibility of Bills with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a huge development: 11 yeas after ratification, we are finally seeing the emergence of independent and systematic reviews. We hope this aspect of the Committee's work will be incorporated into its terms of reference and given adequate expert support.


  Since we gave evidence, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued a comprehensive report on the state of children's rights across the UK. Their detailed observations and recommendations form a clear agenda for fully implementing the Convention across the UK. However, not all of the concluding observations point to clear breaches of children's human rights. We have set out below those aspects of the Committee on the Rights of the Child's concluding observations that are clear breaches and require urgent Government action.



General measures of implementation

  Article 22 Reservation—the Committee notes this is "against the object and purpose of the Convention".

  Articles 4 and 42—Lack of training and dissemination of Convention to public and professionals.

  Article 4—Economic, social and cultural rights are not implemented to "maximum extent of available resources".

General principles

  Article 2—unequal enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights still exist, in particular for disabled children, children from poor families, Irish and Roma children, asylum-seeking and refugee children and other children from minority ethnic communities, children in the care system, detained children, and children aged between 16 and 18 years.

  Article 3—the best interests of the child is not consistently reflected in legislation and policies affecting children throughout the UK, notably in the juvenile justice and immigration systems.

  Article 12—there has been no consistent incorporation of the obligations of Article 12 in legislation, including in private law procedures concerning divorce, in adoption, in education, and in protection.

Civil rights and freedoms

  Article 7—children born out of wedlock, adopted children and children born as a result of assisted fertilisation do not have the right, as far as possible, to know the identity of their biological parents.

  Article 37—the detention of children is not being used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; the frequent use of restraint and control in prison and the use of physical restraint in residential institutions and the use of solitary confirment breach rights to protection from inhuman or degrading treatment.

  Article 19—the existence of the reasonable chastisement defence; high prevelance of violence, including sexual violence, against children within families, in schools, in institutions, in the care system and in detention; growing levels of child neglect.

Basic health and welfare

  Article 24—persisting inequalities in health and access to health services, including mental health services linked to socio-economical status and ethnicity (for example, high rate of infant mortality among Irish and Roma travellers); relatively low rate of breastfeeding and persistence of female genital mutilation despite its illegality.

  Article 27—the high proportion of children living in poverty, and lack of appropriate measures, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

Education, leisure and cultural activities

  Article 28—high rate of temporary and permanent exclusions, discrimination in exclusions and lack of effective remedy for children to challenge exclusions, children deprived of their liberty in prisons and juvenile detention centres do not have a statutory right to education.

Special measures of protection

  Article 22—the detention of asylum-seeking children is not compatible with the principles and provisions of the Convention; unaccompanied minors not granted the same rights as other children separated from their parents.

  Article 32—the national minimum wage does not apply to young workers above the minimum age of employment, and therefore they can be at risk of economic exploitation.

  Articles 37 and 40—high and increasing numbers of children in custody, at earlier ages for lesser offences, and for longer periods of time; conditions in young offender institutions; children still placed in custody with adults; lack of protection for privacy rights; young people of 17 years of age are treated as adults for the purpose of remand.


  All human rights violations are wrong. Governments have a responsibility to remedy them all and NGOs have a responsibility to strongly advocate change wherever it is needed. Yet there are some violations that are so endemic, so huge or so resistant to change that they require particular attention. During the course of assembling information for the Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRAE, has been repeatedly alarmed at the serious infringements of children's human rights in three main areas:

    —  The reasonable chastisement defence—a violation of all children's human rights.

—  The administration of juvenile justice—the unacceptable treatment of our country's most socially excluded children.

—  Young asylum-seekers—the discriminatory treatment of children who have endured severe trauma, loss and hardship.


  International human rights law is clear—children should have full and equal protection from assault as adults. On two separate occasions, in 1995 and 2002, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended in the most forceful terms that the UK remove the defence of reasonable chastisement, which arose from an 1860 case where a teacher beat to death a pupil. Other treaty monitoring bodies have strongly urged law reform. The most recent was in May 2002 when the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted, "the principle of the dignity of the individual that provides the foundation for international human rights law" and urged the UK to prohibit physical punishment in families. The European Social Rights Committee has also told the UK and other countries that prohibition of all corporal punishment is required under article 17 of the European Social Charter. The Government committed itself to changing the law allowing reasonable chastisement before the European Court in the A v UK case, as the judgment notes (para 24).

  Clearly this is currently the most emotive and controversial aspect of debates on children's human rights. In these debates, children need powerful allies and advocates, to counteract their own powerlessness. It is babies and very young children—the smallest and weakest members of our community—that are most affected. They have no political strength, and they lack the capacity to advocate for their own human rights. CRAE therefore strongly urges the Joint Committee on Human Rights to use its particular human rights perspective to advocate unequivocally and persistently for removal of the reasonable chastisement defence to give children equal protection under the law and respect for their human dignity and physical integrity.

  The Government has completely ignored the human rights perspective. It puts up three main arguments for not complying with its human rights obligation to protect children from all forms of violence. First it seeks to separate smacking from what is normally accepted as violent or abusive behaviour. Although we have a Prime Minister who says he regrets that he has hit his children, and a Minister for Children that says he "abhors smacking", the official Government position seems to be that smacking is neither harmful nor violent.

  Mary Marsh, the chief executive of the NSPCC, in giving evidence to the Joint Committee in July, observed:

    "It is quite hard as an adult—when you think of the size of an adult in relation to the size of a child—for an adult to lay a physical assault on a child in a way which does not harm".

  At the end of the 1990s the National Children's Bureau and Save the Children consulted 76 five, six and seven year-olds about smacking. The context was the Government's consultation on physical punishment. The two organisations wanted to ensure that the views and experiences of people most affected by smacking—young children—were included in the national debate. The findings from these very young children were striking.

  When five, six and seven year-olds were asked what it feels like to be smacked, they responded:

    "It feels like someone banged you with a hammer" (five year-old girl)

"It hurts and it's painful inside—it's like breaking your bones" (seven year old girl)

"[Children feel] grumpy and sad and also really upset inside" (five year-old girl)

"[It feels] like someone's punched you or kicked you or something" (six year-old boy)

". . . you feel you don't like your parents anymore" (seven year-old girl)

"It feels, you feel sort of as though you want to run away because they're sort of like being mean to you and it hurts a lot" (seven year-old girl)

"It hurts people and it doesn't feel nice and people don't like it when they are smacked" (five year-old)

"[It makes you] grumpy and sad and also really upset inside. And really hurt" (five year-old girl)

"Sometimes may feel that inside like their tummy hurts" (five year-old boy)

"You're hurt and it makes you cry [and] drips come out of your eyes" (five year-old girl)

  A seven-year old girl observed, "[A smack is] parents trying to hit you, [but] instead of calling [it] a hit they call it a smack". Another concluded, "I was just thinking that if they changed the law then a lot of people will realise what they had done to their child and they would probably . . . be happy that the law was changed. If they don't change the law they will think `oh well, the child doesn't mind so we can keep on doing it".[24]

  There is a wealth of research about the harmful effects of smacking/hitting children—in 1999 the NSPCC published The physical punishment of children. Some input from recent research, compiled by child psychologist Penelope Leach.

  Just this week, at a Council of Europe seminar on violence in families, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, urged governments to desist with the delusion that hitting children is not a form of violence:

    I would therefore like to take this opportunity to challenge the governments of the member states of the Council of Europe to stop defending—or disguising as discipline—deliberate violence against children and to accept that children, like adults, have the fundamental human right not to be assaulted.

  The second argument the Government makes is that the Human Rights Act 1998 gives children new and adequate protection. However, since the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law in October 2000, there have been several cases where parents or step-parents have been acquitted of assaulting their children, even when they have admitted causing injury:

    A father who hit his four-year old son across the back with a belt three or more times causing bruising for refusing to write his name was acquitted by unanimous decision of a jury at Southwark Crown Court on 14 May 2001.

    A stepfather was acquitted after admitting slapping his 10-year old stepson twice across the cheek, causing bruising, for stealing from his teacher. The man admitted he slapped him out of frustration and with hindsight may have used too much force but pleaded not guilty on the grounds of reasonable chastisement. (Bath Chronicle, 20 October 2000; Western Daily Press, 21 October 2000).

    A father was cleared of assault in a Skye court by a Sheriff who said he considered the father's actions "wholly justifiable". The man was charged with assault after striking his 12 year-old daughter in the face, causing it to swell and making it difficult for her to move and open her jaw. The father took her to hospital where the doctor who examined her was so worried by the father's attitude he called the police. The father is a "Wee Free" kirk member. He told the court that he had "measured" the blow: "I did it for her own good. I used to play rugby. I know how to take a man's head off. I hit her with the back of my hand. It was a small slap."( Sunday Mail, 8 April 2001).

    After two trials (the first ending in a hung jury, the second aborted half way through) a couple, both senior social workers, were acquitted of assault for slapping their two foster children, an eight year old girl and nine year old boy. The girl was slapped across the face by the foster mother and the boy struck at least twice across his upper thighs by the foster father; the bruises were still clearly visible a week later. The punishment has been a "last resort" "impulsive" response to the children's admission that they had been playing sex games which had occasionally involved the couple's three year old son. They were apparently copying their natural mother, a crack addict who used to have sex in front of the children. The judge urged the jury to use their "common sense" and praised the system that finally aquitted them. (Birmingham Post 28 October 2000; The Times 28 October 2000).

    A judge ordered the jury to find a stepfather not guilty on three counts of cruelty. He had admitted "smacking and tapping" his three children aged nine, six and five to discipline them, including using a wooden spoon and slipper. (Daily Mail, 24 November 2001: "Judge defends the right to smack as a stepfather goes free").

  The third argument the Government raises is that the public would not accept a ban of parents hitting children. Public in this context of course means adults. Given our country's wretched history in relation to children, it is likely that there would be a national outcry following law reform. But it is worth noting that the surveys which reassure the public that trivial smacks would not lead to prosecution generally show high levels of support for the law reform. The point here, though, is that the Government in defending the most basic of human rights would lead public opinion not follow. Evidence published by the Swedish Government, which was the first country to ban the physical punishment of children in 1979, shows that attitudes were transformed by changing the law.[25]


  The Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded that in many respects the treatment of children in the juvenile justice system has worsened since 1995—a view supported by NGOs.

  Of huge concern are the very clear human rights breaches inherent in the increasing numbers of children being locked up, and the conditions in young offender institutions, which is where most children end up.

  In July 2002, the Government's Social Exclusion Unit reported on the characteristics and backgrounds of children in prison. It noted:

Children in custody: what the Social Exclusion Unit found

    —  Nearly half have literacy and numeracy levels below those of an average 11 year old.

—  Over a quarter have literacy and numeracy levels equivalent to those of an average seven year old.

—  Between a quarter and a third of children in prison were not in education before imprisonment.

—  Over half of children in custody have been in care or involved with social services.

—  Two out of five girls and one out of four boys in prison report suffering violence in the home.

—  One in three girls and one in 20 boys in prison report sexual abuse.

—  About 10% of children in prison are from minority ethnic communities (compared to 2% of the general population).

—  Two out of every five boys and two-thirds of girls in prison had symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue and/or concentration problems (compared to one-tenth of general child population).

—  Around 85% of children in prison show signs of a personality disorder.

—  One in 10 children in prison show signs of a psychotic illness (for example, schizophrenia).

—  One in four females (16 to 20 year-olds) and one in seven males in prison were dependent on opiates such as heroin.

—  Over half the girl population in prison and two-thirds of the boy population had alcohol problems before entering prison.

  According to the Howard League for Penal Reform, the UK locks up more of its children than any other country in Europe.[26] Figures provided by the Youth Justice Board show that in April 2002 there were 3,034 locked up children in England and Wales, the numbers having steadily risen over the previous two years from 2,570 children in custody in April 1999.

  In February 2002 in a Parliamentary written answer, Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes revealed not only the high numbers of children in custody but also the disproportionate use of prison.[27] On 31 January 2002, there were 2,933 locked up children in England and Wales. Of these, 2,580 (88%) were in prison, 243 (8%) were in local authority secure units and 110 (4%) were in secure training centres.

  There remains no legislation to prevent children being placed in adult prisons and the practice continues, although within these prisons, under 18s are now separated. The "juvenile secure estate" is unable to deal adequately with the increasing numbers of children incarcerated and adult prison continues to provide overflow provision. The lack of placement choice means that girls (who proportionately represent a considerable increase in population in recent years, despite the Government's official decision that no girls should be held in prisons beyond March 31 2001) are particularly affected and are often locked up far from home. In April 2002 there were 128 girls in prison. Children serving long term detention are routinely moved from child care secure facilities to prison upon attaining 15 due to pressure of numbers of younger children now receiving custodial sentences.

  In June 2001 the Chief Inspector of Prisons, in his follow-up review on "Women in Prison" stated, "I draw attention yet again to the abomination of finding unsentenced children accommodated in dormitories with serious criminals".[28]

  Recent legislation permits children as young as 12 to be given two year sentences, of which half must be spent in custody.[29] Children do not automatically have time spent in custody on remand deducted from a custodial sentence, as do adults. Upon release from custody, children are subject to more restrictions of liberty as enforceable conditions of supervision in the community than adults serving an equivalent sentence. And, unlike adults, children cannot receive a shorter custodial sentence than two months.

  Responsibility for the treatment of children in prison has been delegated to the Youth Justice Board, a quango set up under the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act. Under its guidance a Prison Service Order was issued on Regimes for Prisoners Under 18 Years Old which requires a significantly higher standard of care for children than is provided under the statutory Young Offender Institution Rules 2000. However, it is clear that this attempt to bring children's prisons up to a civilised standard, though definitely improving in some establishments, is still an unachieved goal. Prison Service Orders are not, unfortunately, judicially enforceable by young offenders if the Order is breached.

  The Prisons Inspectorate continues to find poor conditions, high levels of violence and self-harming behaviour, negligent health and mental health care and inadequate education and rehabilitative provision, with children still being essentially warehoused, abused and corrupted. The Howard League for Penal Reform's recent research into conditions in young offender institutions raised concerns of lack of specialist training for staff, a failure on the prison service to give children individualised care, limited access to daylight and open air, a failure to tackle bullying and help children feel safe and lack of preparation for release.[30] In its special report on education for children in prison,[31] arising from visits to 13 prisons which hold 15-18 year-old boys sentenced and on remand, the Howard League found that "boys with special educational needs, such as emotional and behavioural difficulties, were being placed in solitary confinement in prisons as a response to their behaviour". The most recent official figure on how many children reoffend within two years of leaving a young offender institution is 84%—exposing how little child custody helps either the individual child or society generally.[32]

  The Government has never made an official response to any of the Chief Inspector's reports on young offender institutions, aside from press rebuttals. Children may at this moment be suffering intolerable conditions, since the Chief Inspector does not have the resources to visit all establishments even annually—some are not inspected for over four years.

  In a Parliamentary written answer in April 2002, Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes provided information on the distance from home of children in prison.[33] She noted that of the 8,900 children received into prison during 2001:

    —  3,500 were held between 50 and 100 miles from home; and

    —  700 were held over 100 miles from home.

  Given that children in prison are disproportionately from poor families, this raises serious concerns about family contact—a right of children under Article 9 of the CRC and, with qualifications, under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Lack of contact with families is also counterproductive to rehabilitation. The Prisons Inspectorate has repeatedly raised this concern, noting in one institution, for example, that: "According to our survey, 34% of trainees were between 50 and 100 miles from home. 21% of trainees said their friends and family experienced difficulty in getting to the establishment. Whilst 62% were being visited once or twice a month, 14% did not get any visits at all"[34]

  Earlier this month, CRAE published a comprehensive report on the human rights breaches in young offender institutions, using evidence gathered from 31 Prisons Inspectorate reports between January 1998 and October 2001.[35] Detailed recommendations are made for giving all children in custody have a set of enforceable rights. Rethinking Child Imprisonment also makes the following general recommendations:

General recommendations for improving the rights of children in custody

    —  Children should be entitled to the same rights, services and safeguards that can be claimed by children who are not locked up, save those rights that are incompatible with loss of liberty.

    —  Such rights should be in primary legislation and should be consistent for all detained children, regardless of which institution they are locked up in.

    —  Detained children should have rights of access to independent advocates who can inform them of their rights and help them enforce any rights that are being breached.

    —  Children should only be locked up if they would otherwise be a danger to others or themselves.

    —  The numbers of available locked places for children should be radically reduced.

    —  Resources currently spent on locked places should be diverted to alternatives to custody, including pilot projects providing non-punitive support in residential placements away from home.

    —  A welfare-based department of state (health or education, not the Home Office or Prison Service) should have direct responsibility for the welfare of all children under 18 in locked units and for directly running these units.

    —  Local social, education and health services should have the same legal responsibilities for meeting the needs and rights of children in locked provision within their area as they do for other children.

    —  Any difference between units that lock up children should relate solely to the differing needs of the children; thus the current discrepancy of resourcing between secure units, secure training centres and young offender institutions should largely be eliminated.

  In relation to the UK's low age of criminal responsibility, we note the Minister for Children and Young People's remark to the Joint Committee on Human Rights that "there is no uniformity across Europe". If the Minister meant that the age of criminal responsibility is not the same across Europe he is correct. However, his statement could be interpreted as meaning there is no overall trend across Europe. UNICEF compiled a table comparing globally the age of criminal responsibility, based on reports submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child by 1995. This table shows that at that time, only two European countries—Ireland and Cyprus—had a lower age of criminal responsibility than the UK. The most common ages across Europe were 14 and 15: Belgium had the highest at 18 years. The other statement by the Minister—that the UK's low age of criminal responsibility acts as a kind of passport to family assistance and support—is disingenuous. The UK has a well-developed child welfare system that is more than capable of assessing and meeting the needs of children without them having to be charged or treated as criminals. The Committee will be aware of the recent very critical joint report from eight Inspectorate and regulatory bodies into how well children are being safeguarded.[36] Of the youth offending teams working with children in prison, the report concludes, "the focus was almost exclusively upon the offending behaviour of the young people, and there was little evidence of welfare needs being considered and addressed". This should give a red signal to a government so intent on responding to children in trouble—especially the youngest ones—through the criminal justice system rather than through our child welfare system.


  The treatment of refugee children and those seeking refugee status by the British Government has been consistently condemned as inhumane and discriminatory by NGOs. The Committee on the Rights of the Child's concluding observations reflect our broad range of serious concerns.

    The Committee is concerned that detention of these children is not compatible with the principles and provisions of the Convention. The Committee is further concerned that the dispersal system may impede a better integration and lead to an escalation in racially related incidents; placement in temporary accommodation of children seeking asylum may infringe their basic rights such as access to health or education; processing applications may take several years, Children's Panel of Advisers are not always adequately funded; and that the ongoing reform of the asylum and immigration system fails to address the particular needs and rights of asylum seeking children.

  In 2001 3,356 children claimed asylum in the UK with their families.[37] In addition, 3,469 children aged 17 or under claimed asylum on their own.[38] This was a 27% increase on 2000. Nearly one in five children came from Afghanistan.

  At the end of 2000 there were over 5,000 unaccompanied minors living in England, 3,500 of these lived in London.[39]

  In September 2001 the Refugee Council issued a briefing on the plight of detained asylum seekers, stating: "Unfortunately, it remains the case that people who have committed no crime are detained for an indefinite period under questionable and unaccountable procedures which are at no point open to judicial scrutiny". It reported that the UK's detention figures were at an all time high and the highest in Europe.[40]

  On 29 December 2001 there were 1,280 asylum seekers detained in the UK; 340 (27%) of these were in prison.[41]

  The Government does not publish statistics on the number of children detained, but it is estimated that at any one time around 300 young asylum seekers are detained. Between 1994 and 2001 the Refugee Council's Children's Panel of Advisers supported nearly 250 children who came to this country without their families and were subsequently locked up.

  Although the socially divisive voucher support scheme has now been scrapped, discriminatory levels of support persist. The total amount of financial support received by families is currently worth 76% of social security benefits provided to other destitute families on Income Support. In addition, expectant mothers and children under five are excluded from access to milk and vitamin tokens currently available to other poor families. The British Medical Association and Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture found instances of mothers watering down milk for their babies.[42]

  In relation to the compulsory dispersal system, unaccompanied minors who have proven their childhood status are not subject to the dispersal scheme but once they reach 18 they can be dispersed. This places enormous pressure on children.

  There is a serious problem of social services placing unaccompanied minors in bed and breakfast accommodation rather than looking after them in care. In 1999 the Audit Commission found that 41% of unaccompanied minors, including under 15-year-olds, had been placed by social services in bed and breakfast accommodation or hotels.[43]

  But it is not only unaccompanied minors that are placed in bed and breakfast and hotel accommodation. Asylum-seeking families are also placed in such temporary accommodation. The Audit Commission reported in 2000 that, "The pressure on existing stock has forced many London boroughs to house asylum seekers in what they know to be unsuitable accommodation"[44] In October 2001 the British Medical Association and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture published a joint dossier on the effects of government policy on asylum seekers' health. In one case a doctor thought a baby boy might be showing early signs of muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy when it later emerged that his whole family was living in one room. The double bed they all slept in took up almost the whole room so the infant had nowhere to crawl.[45]

  At the end of 2000 Save the Children UK and the Refugee Council warned about inadequate funding for the Children's Panel of Advisers, with some children never allocated to an adviser but instead invited to attend a "drop-in service".[46] In 2000-01, 4,276 referrals were made to the Panel, 127 related to children aged 12 and under. Five unaccompanied children were aged six and under.[47]

  The Government had the opportunity through its recent Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill to reform asylum and immigration law to make it compliant with children's human rights. Yet it introduced another measure that was roundly condemned by NGOs, teacher unions and the clergy—the segregation of asylum-seeking children and families in accommodation centres with education and health care provided on site.

  After a stormy passage through the House of Commons, on 9 October 2002, this aspect of the Bill was defeated in the House of Lords by one vote. In moving his amendment to the Bill, Lord Bishop of Portsmouth argued: "We should want the best for every child in our country: the best care; the best opportunities; the best services; the best education regardless of their immigration status or of their length of stay here. In other words, we should treat all children as children above all else . . .We are talking about children who are not small adults but people in their own right . . ."

  In a parliamentary written answer in June 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Young People and Learning, Ivan Lewis MP, noted that "information on the number of children of asylum seekers in schools is not collected centrally". Using an estimate from the Refugee Council that about 80,000 asylum seeking children and refugees attend schools in the UK, Ivan Lewis reported that this represents 0.95% of school aged children.[48] In June 2002, when the Home Secretary introduced the Bill into Parliament, he referred in a news interview to asylum seeking children "swamping" local schools.

  This amendment was subsequently overturned, and the Bill received Royal Assent earlier this month—just over four weeks after the Government was severely criticised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. This is further proof that children, especially the most vulnerable ones, need the Joint Committee on Human Rights to be a staunch and constant advocate and defender of their human rights.

November 2002

24   Willow, C and Hyder, T (1998) It hurts you inside. Children talking about smacking. National Children's Bureau and Save the Children. Back

25   Hindberg, B (2001) Ending, corporal punishment. Swedish experience of efforts to prevent all forms of violence against children-and the results. Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden. Back

26   Data from Council of Europe, SPACE 2000-number of under 18 year-olds in penal institutions on 1 September 2002 cited in The Howard League for Penal Reform (2002) Children in prison. Barred rights. An independent submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Back

27   Taken from Parliamentary written answer from Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes on occupancy rates of young offender institutions, secure units and secure training centres on 31 January 2002. Back

28   Sir David Ramsbotham, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons (June 2001). Follow-up to 1997 thematic review "Women in Prison". Back

29   Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Back

30   Howard League for Penal Reform (2001) Children in prison: provision and practice at Lancaster Farms and Howard League for Penal Reform (2001) Children in prison: provision and practice at Castington. Back

31   Howard League for Penal Reform (June 2001) Missing the grade. Education for children in prison. Back

32   Prison Statistics England and Wales 2000, Cm No 5250, August 2000. Back

33   Parliamentary written answer from Beverley Hughes MP, 24 April 2002. Back

34   Taken from Prisons Inspectorate report into Wetherby YOI, March 2001. Back

35   Hodgkin, R (2002) Rethinking child imprisonment. A report on young offender institutions. Children's Rights Alliance for England. Back

36   Social Services Inspectorate et al (October 2002) Safeguarding children. A joint chief inspectors' report on arrangements to safeguard children. Department of Health. Back

37   National Statistics (July 2002) Asylum statistics United Kingdom 2001. Back

38   Ibid. Back

39   Audit Commission briefing (July 2000) A New City. Supporting asylum seekers and refugees in London. Back

40   Refugee Council (September 2001) The detention of asylum seekers in the UK. Back

41   National Statistics (July 2002) Asylum statistics United Kingdom 2001. Government statistics differentiate between those held in "dedicated immigration wings" of prisons (295 on 29 December 2001) and those held in prison establishments (45 on 29 December 2001). We have combined these figures as they both relate to asylum-seekers detained in prison. Back

42   BMA and Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (October 2001) Asylum seekers and health. Back

43   Audit Commission (1999) Survey of social services authorities. Back

44   Audit Commission briefing (July 2000) A new city. Supporting asylum seekers and refugees in London. Back

45   BMA and Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (October 2001) Asylum Seekers and Health. Back

46   Ayotte, W and Williamson, L (2001) Separated children in the UK. An overview of the current situation. Refugees Council and Save the Children. Back

47   Refugee Council and British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (2001) Where are the children? A mapping exercise on numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK: September 2000-March 2001. Back

48   Parliamentary written answer from Ivan Lewis MP, 10 June 2002. Back

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