Memorandum submitted by 11 MILLION
1. WHO ARE
11 MILLION is a national organisation led by
the Children's Commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley-Green.
The Children's Commissioner is a position created by the Children
The UK Government reported to the UN Committee
on the Rights of the Child in 2008. As part of the reporting process,
the four UK Children's Commissioners submitted a joint report
to the UN Committee.
This response is based on that report which, along with submissions
from NGOs and children, directly influenced the UN Committee's
3. POSITIVE PROGRESS
3.1 We agree with the UN Committee that
there have been positive developments and improvements in children's
lives since the UK reported in 2002. These include the Children
Act 2004, Every Child Matters (ECM) and the Children's
Plan. We believe that these are significant changes which will
take time to embed fully, though some results are already manifest
eg improved access to childcare, the Sure Start and children's
centre programmes, extended schools and investment in youth services.
The ambition of the Children's Plan to make England the best place
in the world for children to grow up is one we strongly support.
3.2 However, it is clear from the Committee's
124 recommendations that more needs to be done to enhance, promote
and safeguard the rights and best interests of children and to
ensure that children's rights are at the heart of policy-making
in the UK.
4.1 11 MILLION shares the UN Committee's
concerns about "the general climate of intolerance and negative
public attitudes towards children, especially adolescents... including
in the media".
The Children's Commissioners' report raised concerns about the
negative portrayal of young people, with 71% of media stories
on them being negative and a third of articles being about crime.
Young people feel the media represent them as anti-social, to
be feared, selfish, criminal and uncaring.
The Government shares these concerns and we welcome Aiming
High for Young People
and endorse Government initiatives, like National Youth Week,
and other approaches, challenging the negative views of young
4.2 The Committee highlighted how this intolerance
"may often be the underlying cause of further infringement
of their rights",
in particular, the right to freedom of movement and peaceful assembly.
Related to this the Committee condemned the use of Anti-Social
Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), dispersal zones and the use of "mosquito
devices." We support the Committee's recommendations that
the Government should reconsider the use of ASBOs, "mosquito
devices" and that they should "take urgent measures
to address the intolerance and inappropriate characterisation
of children, especially adolescents, within society, including
4.3 As highlighted by the Committee, the
forthcoming Equality Bill offers a legislative opportunity to
enhance children's protection from discrimination and thereby
promote their rights and outcomes. Including under-18s in the
Bill's proposed age discrimination prohibition and age strand
of the single public equality duty is crucial to achieving this
goal. We are pleased that the Government has signalled that it
is willing to seriously consider this latter proposal.
5. DISABLED CHILDREN
We welcome the measures that the Government
has taken to better meet the needs of children with disabilities,
in particular Aiming High for Disabled Children
and the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, which include greater
investment, improved services, short breaks and transition support.
We support the Committee's recommendation that the Government
should "develop a comprehensive national strategy for the
inclusion of children with disability in society". Along
with the Committee, we would like the Government to ratify the
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
6.1 11 MILLION welcomes the progress made
by Government in seeking to reduce inequalities in educational
outcomes. However, educational inequalities persist and England
has one of the highest associations of social class with educational
performance in the OECD.
We remain particularly concerned about educational outcomes for
poor white boys, Afro-Caribbean pupils and Gypsy and Traveller
children, children who are looked after and children with SEN.
We support the Committee's recommendation that Government should
"strengthen its efforts to reduce the effects of the social
background of children in their achievement at school".
We are very pleased that the Government has considerably invested
in education and improved standards and levels of attainment.
We particularly support the Narrowing the Gap initiative, 21st
and the Gifted and Talented programme and believe these will result
in real progress. We also hope that implementation of the Children
and Young Persons Act 2008 will result in improvements to the
educational attainment of children in care.
6.2 Inequalities are also evident in school exclusion
rates with a clear correlation between social disadvantage and
exclusion. There has been little progress in reducing exclusions.
Gypsy and Traveller children have the highest permanent exclusion
rates and are over three and half times more likely to be excluded
than other children, and pupils with statements of special educational
needs are over nine times more likely to be excluded.
Children in care are over seven times more likely to be excluded
from school than the rest of the school population.
We support the Committee's recommendation that exclusions from
school should be a "means of last resort" and their
6.3 We welcome the Government's investment
and measures to improve provision and outcomes for children with
which represents progress towards the Committee's recommendation
of investing "considerable resources in order to ensure the
right of all children to a truly inclusive education".
6.4 11 MILLION supports the new duty in
the Education and Skills Act 2008, requiring governing bodies
of maintained schools to invite and consider the views of children
and hope this will result in greater participation of children
6.5 We welcome the Government's support
of various initiatives to address bullying, but it is concerning
that 39% of children report being bullied at school.
We hope that the National Healthy Schools Programme's Anti-Bullying
Guidance, produced in partnership with 11 MILLION, will be a helpful
resource for schools. We welcome the Government's commitment to
strengthen bullying complaints procedures.
6.6 We share the Committee's concern that
the right to complain regarding educational provision is restricted
to parents, representing a particular problem for looked after
children. We support the Committee's recommendations that children
without parental care should have a representative to defend their
best interests and that children should have the right to appeal
against their exclusion as well as the right to appeal to the
special educational needs tribunal.
7. CHILD POVERTY
7.1 11 MILLION supports the Government's
commitment to end child poverty by 2020 and we welcome the plans
to introduce legislation to end child poverty.
However, legislative reform on its own will not be enough and
it has been estimated that a further £3 billion
needs to be invested to meet the Government's target of halving
child poverty by 2010. Over the last two years there has been
a rise in the number of children in poverty and there are currently
3.9 million children (30%) living in poverty in the UK.
More attention needs to be given to reduce the extent of in-work
poverty and to ensure there are safeguards for the minority of
parents unable to work either due to ill health, disability or
the caring needs of their children. The UN Committee raised concern
about the Government's strategy not being sufficiently targeted
at those groups of children in most severe poverty.
7.2 While inequality has fallen faster in the
UK than other countries, it still has one of the highest levels
of income inequality in the developed world
and in 2008 income inequality in the UK was at its highest level
since the late 1940s.
More needs to be done to address the structural causes of poverty,
including the high levels of inequality (income, health and educational)
in the UK.
8.1 We are concerned that children are increasingly
being drawn into the formal criminal justice system for minor
offences and behaviour that in the past would not have been defined
as criminal and/or would have been dealt with through informal
means. Since 2002, the number of under-18 year olds involved with
the criminal justice system has risen by 27%.
This is at a time when the juvenile crime rate remained stable.
This rise has been partly attributed to the police "Offences
Brought to Justice" targets, the expansion of pre-court sanctions
and the Government's anti-social behaviour measures, particularly
The Committee expressed concern about the use of ASBOs on children
and recommended "an independent review on ASBOs with a view
to abolishing their application to children".
9. CHILDREN IN
9.1 The youth justice system in England
has a poor record of compliance with the UNCRC and the best interests
of the child are not sufficiently reflected in youth justice policy,
legislation and practice. The high numbers of children in custody
in England has been criticised by the UN Committee and by the
Human Rights Commissioner.
It is troubling that a quarter of children in custody have learning
disabilities, a third with major mental health needs, 12% are
locked up for breach and a third for non-violent offences.
We support the Committee's recommendation that the Government
should "develop a broad range of alternative measures to
detention" and that the principle of detention to be used
as a last resort should be established as a "statutory principle".
11 MILLION welcomes the Government's Youth Crime Action Plan and
its focus on a more welfare based approach and the emphasis on
early intervention and prevention.
9.2 We support the Committee's recommendation
that the Government should "provide a statutory right to
education for all children deprived of their liberty".
9.3 The Children's Commissioners raised
serious concerns that 30 children have died in custody since 1990
yet there has never been a public inquiry. Child Death Overview
Panels now have responsibility for reviewing the death of every
child, including those in custody. We would like reports of children
who die in custody to be made public and for them to be considered
by LSCBs as part of the Serious Case Review process. The same
should apply to children who suffer serious injury whilst in custody,
including self-inflicted injury.
9.4 The Children's Commissioners, the UN
Committee and Commissioner for Human Rights have expressed serious
disquiet about the over-use of physical control and restraint
on children in custody. While we welcome the Government's commitment
to reduce the use of restraint in response
to the independent review of restraint,
we are disappointed that the opportunity was not taken to ensure
compliance with the UNCRC. A further regret is that the review
did not result in the withdrawal of restraint methods that deliberately
inflict pain, eg pain distraction techniques. The review falls
short of the Committee's recommendations that "restraint
should only be used as a last resort exclusively to prevent harm
to the child or others and that all methods of physical restraint
for disciplinary purposes be abolished".
9.5 We are also disappointed at the narrowness
of the review and the failure to set it within the wider context
of how children are treated in the youth justice system, including
custody. There are increasing numbers of vulnerable children being
locked up in unsafe environments with high levels of self-harm
and bullying, intimidation and violence and who are being subject
to the degrading treatment of restraint and strip-searching.
There is an urgent need to review the way we deal with children
in trouble with the law.
9.6 The restraint review failed to take
account of a recent judicial review,
which quashed the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules and
found that restraint for the purpose of good order and discipline
is in breach of article 3
and article 8
of the ECHR. A further judicial review
identified the importance of the UNCRC in relation to the use
of restraint on children and questioned the findings of the restraint
review, identifying that it was based on a number of false assumptions.
There is an urgent need for clarity on the impact of these judgments
on the use of restraint across the juvenile secure estate.
10.1 The Children's Commissioners' report
identified that children seeking asylum experience serious breaches
of their rights and that immigration control takes priority over
human rights obligations to these children and their families.
We hope that the removal of the reservation to article 22 of the
UNCRC signals a commitment from Government to considerably improve
the treatment of these children, and that their human rights and
best interests will be given greater precedence. We also welcome
the Government's commitment to change legislation to make the
UK Borders Agency (UKBA) subject to a duty to promote the welfare
of children. 11 MILLION is working with the UKBA to achieve positive
change and ensure the best outcomes for asylum-seeking children.
10.2 11 MILLION is highly concerned about the
damaging impact of detention on children and their parents and
we would like to see an end to the unnecessary detention of children
for immigration purposes. Detention of children is not always
being used as a measure of last resort or for the shortest appropriate
time and it is troubling that the length of detention has been
increasing. 11 MILLION has found that the best interests and welfare
of the child are not given sufficient priority in the decision
to detain or to continue detention. In addition, children have
told us that the arrest process is an extremely distressing experience
and it is unacceptable that some children are transported in vans
without breaks or access to food. While asylum-seeking children
continue to be detained there is a need for major improvements
to the immigration removal centre, particularly in the provision
of health care and mental health support.
10.3 We agree with the Committee's recommendation
that the benefit of the doubt should be applied to age disputed
cases and that expert guidance should be obtained on how to determine
10.4 The best interests principle must be
of paramount consideration in the decision to return children
and we agree with the Committee that there need to be greater
safeguards in place when children are being returned, "including
an independent assessment of the conditions upon return, including
The UN Committee and the Children's Commissioners recommend the
appointment of guardians for separated children. We welcome the
UKBA's Code of Practice
and 11 MILLION is engaged in ongoing dialogue with UKBA on the
issue of safe returns.
10.5 11 MILLION supports the Committee's
recommendation that section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment
of Claimants etc) Act 2004 should be amended "to allow for
an absolute defence for unaccompanied children who enter the UK
without valid immigration documents."
Awareness of the UNCRC is very low. We support
the Committee's recommendation that the Government should "ensure
that all of the provisions of the Convention are widely known
and understood" by children, parents and professionals and
the Convention should be included in the national curriculum and
in professional training. 11 MILLION is working with DCSF to take
steps to improve awareness and knowledge of the Convention across
11 MILLION would like the Government to produce
an action plan addressing how they will take forward the 2008
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's Concluding Observations.
2 UK Children's Commissioners' Report to the UN Committee
on the Rights of the Child, June 2008, available at www.11MILLION.org.uk Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, Considerations of Reports
Submitted by State Parties under Article 44 of the Convention,
Concluding Observations, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland, 3 October 2008, CRC/C/GBR/CO/4. Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 24. Back
YouthNet and the British Youth Council, Respect? The Voice
Behind the Hood (2006). Back
Department for Children, Schools and Families and HM Treasury,
Aiming High for Young People: A 10-year strategy for positive
activities (July 2007). Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 24. Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 25. Back
A more detailed analysis of age equality in the context of children
may be found in 11 MILLION's Submission to the Joint Committee
on Human Rights on the Equality Bill, 2 December 2008 at www.11MILLION.org.uk Back
Department for Education and Schools and HM Treasury, Aiming
High for Disabled Children: Better support for families (May
K Hansen and A Vignoles A The United Kingdom education system
in a comparative context in S Machin and A Vignoles (eds)
What is the Good of Education? (2005) Princeton University
Press; 51% of pupils in England not eligible free school meals
achieved five or more GCSEs grade A*-C in 2007-08 compared with
24% of pupils who were eligible-Source: Department for Children,
Schools and Families (DCSF) Attainment by Pupil Characteristics,
England 2007-08, November 2008. Back
Department for Education and Skills, Ethnicity and Education:
The Evidence on Minority Ethnic pupils, DfES Research Topic
Paper: RTP01-05 (2005); R Cassen and G Kingdon G, Tackling
Low Educational Achievement, (2007) Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 67a). Back
Department for Children, Schools and Families, 21st Century
Schools: A World-Class Education for Every Child (2008). Back
DCSF, Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions from Schools in
England 2006-07, June 2008. Back
DCSF, Outcome indicators for children looked after, 12 months
to 30 September 2007-England, April 2008. Back
"Balls announces new action and investment of £38 million
for children with special educational needs" (11 December
2008), www.dcsf.gov.uk Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 67d). Back
OFSTED, TellUs3 Survey, October 2008. Back
Child Poverty Unit, Ending Child Poverty: making it happen
End Child Poverty, www.endchildpoverty.org.uk; D Hirsch,
What will it take to end child Poverty? Firing on all cylinders,
2006, Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This report estimated £4
billion was needed to reach the target of halving child poverty
by 2010, with the Government committing almost £1 billion
in the 2008 budget, a further £3 billion is needed to reach
the target. Back
Department for Work and Pensions Households Below Average Income
(HBAI), 1994-95-2006-07 (2008). Back
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Growing
Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries
Institute for Fiscal Studies, Poverty and inequality in the
UK: 2008 (2008). Back
IPPR, Communities can hold youth to account and reduce re-offending,
June 2008, http://www.ippr.org.uk/pressreleases/?id=3180 Back
Professor Rod Morgan, Summary Justice: Fast-but Fair, Centre for
Crime and Justice Studies, August 2008. Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 79b). Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 80. Back
Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights, Memorandum:
Rights of the child with focus on juvenile justice (2008) Council
of Europe. Back
Prison Reform Trust, Criminal Damage: why we should lock up fewer
children (2008). Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 78b). Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 78e). Back
The Government's Response to the Report by Peter Smallridge and
Andrew Williamson of a Review of the Use of Restraint in Juvenile
Secure Settings (December 2008) TSO. Back
P Smallridge and A Williamson, Independent Review of Restraint
in Juvenile Secure Settings (2008) Ministry of Justice and
Department for Children, School and Families. Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 39. Back
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report
2005-06 (2007). Back
R (C) and the Secretary of State for Justice  EWCA Civ882. Back
Article 3 of the ECHR-Freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment. Back
Article 8 of the ECHR-Right to respect for private and family
R (on the application of Carol Pounder) v HM Coroner for the
North and South Districts of Durham and Darlington 
EWHC 76 (Admin). Back
Ibid, para 42. Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 71f). Back
UK Border Agency, UK Border Agency Code of Practice For Keeping
Children Safe From Harm (2008). Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, op cit, para 71g). Back