Children's Rights - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


Surveys by UNICEF and others of the well-being of children and young people have found that the UK is ranked lower than almost all other industrialised countries. We have previously considered children's rights in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) - which the UK ratified in 1991 - inquiries into human trafficking, the treatment of asylum seekers and the use of restraint in secure training centres, and our scrutiny of legislation. This Report follows up some of the issues we have raised previously in the light of the latest Concluding Observations of the UN Committee which monitors compliance with the UNCRC.

We recommend that there should be a UK plan for implementation of the recommendations of the UN Committee on the UNCRC, with annual reports on progress. We are not persuaded that incorporation of the treaty into UK law is unnecessary and reiterate a previous recommendation that any Bill of Rights for the UK should include children's rights. We also recommend that new, local children and young people's plans should be founded on the UNCRC.

The UNCRC found that there was a "general climate of intolerance and negative attitude towards children" in the UK, which we pressed the Minister for Children to address. Innovative and proactive solutions are required. The Minister said that the Government is working with local media to provide them with positive stories about children and young people and we look forward to scrutinising an evaluation of the Government's campaign in due course.

A large number of discrimination issues were raised by witnesses and should be addressed by the UNCRC implementation plan which we recommend should be drawn up. We also recommend that the Equality Bill be amended to extend protection from age discrimination to people regardless of their age in relation to the provision of goods, facilities and services, except where the discrimination can be justified.

We draw attention to the large number of children from vulnerable and marginalised groups in the criminal justice system and the growing number of offences for which children can be charged and convicted. An approach based more clearly on the rights and welfare of the child is needed in this area. The decriminalisation of child prostitution is particularly necessary and we draw attention to the Minister's inconsistent comments on the subject. Detention of children should be a last resort; more should be done to fulfil the government's recent commitment not to detain children with adults; the use of 'pain compliance' in secure settings is, in our view, incompatible with the UNCRC; we question the degree to which ASBOs hasten children's entry into the criminal justice system; and we welcome recent proposals to improve education for children in custody.

We welcome the withdrawal of the UK's reservation to Article 22 of the UNCRC, which related to immigration, but question why this has not led to changes in policy and practice. We draw attention to the detention of children subject to immigration control, disputes over the age of asylum seekers, and welfare, education and support issues. Human trafficking, children and armed conflict, child poverty and education issues are also discussed.

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Prepared 20 November 2009