Memorandum submitted by the Department
for Children, Schools and Families
1. INTRODUCTION AND
The Government is fully committed to the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Our ambitions
to improve the lives of all children and young people have been
clearly set out in the Children's Plan and this is underpinned
by the General Principles of the UNCRC.
September 2008 saw the completion of the UK's reporting
year on the implementation of the Convention, culminating with
an oral hearing in Geneva. The UN Committee on the Rights of the
Child issued the Government with their "Concluding Observations"
in October 2008.
The UN Committee welcomed the Government's progress
in implementing the Convention and our unwavering ambition to
improve the lives of all children and young people. They specifically
welcomed the Children's Plan and its links to the UNCRC, making
implementation of the Convention a reality on the ground.
The Government withdrew the remaining Reservations
to the UNCRC against article 22 (refugee children) and article
37c (children in custody with adults). The lifting of these reservations
is further proof that the Government is delivering on its mission
to improve the lives of all children, including the most vulnerable,
such as asylum seeking children and children in custody.
The UN Committee's Concluding Observations provide
a helpful framework for further action by Government, building
on measures already in place, to make children's rights under
the Convention a reality.
As State party, the UK Government remains responsible
for overall coordination of the UNCRC across the UK.
In December 2008, we published an update to
the Children's Plan which sets out England's priorities for taking
forward the UN Committee's recommendations. Each Devolved Administration
will address the UN Committee's recommendations as appropriate
to their national requirements.
The Government will continue the "four
nations" approach taken throughout the reporting process
and will continue to hold regular dialogues with officials across
In taking forward the UN Committee's Concluding
Observations we will continue to build on our strong links and
partnerships with Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), the Children's
Commissioners and in particular children and young people.
The paragraphs below provide the Government's
response to the JCHR select committee's call for evidence.
2. CHILDREN IN
Select Committee has asked for: The practical impact of the withdrawal
of the reservation against Article 37c; what the Government is
doing on the treatment of children in detention; the use of restraint;
death in custody and criminalisation of children.
(a) Impact of
removing the reservation against article 37c
Removing the reservation gives formal recognition
to our achievement in setting up a discrete custodial estate for
young people under 18, in which they are not mixing with older
Specialist training in working with young people
is being extended to cover all custodial staff working in young
offender institutions for under-18s.
(b) Children in detention
The Government has made it very clear that custody
for young people under 18 should be the last resort. Custody will
be used when other interventions would not adequately protect
the public from harm or where they have not worked. Courts are
required by law to consider all possible alternatives before passing
a custodial sentence. In the vast majority of cases, young people
can be more effectively dealt with in the community under proper
supervision where they can remain in key services such as education
and health. However, there are serious and persistent offenders
for whom community alternatives either have already failed (often
repeatedly failed) or are not realistic because of the seriousness
of the offence. Deciding what sentence is appropriate in the circumstances
of the individual case is, and should remain, a matter for the
In the Youth Crime Action Plan, the Government is
committed to a set of principles in relation to custody for young
people. They include:
promoting the positive development of
young people in custody and ensuring that their local authority
is involved. In particular, we will address under-achievement
in education and the development of relevant skills and qualifications.
(c) Use of restraint
The behaviour of some young people in custody
is extremely challenging and can put the safety of other young
people and of staff at serious risk. However, the relevant legislation
and the Youth Justice Board's code of practice Managing Children
and Young People's Behaviour in the Secure Estate make it
clear that physical restraint is only to be used as a last resort,
where all other options have not succeeded or could not succeed.
Following the inquests into the deaths in custody of Gareth Myatt
and Adam Rickwood (both in 2004), the Government commissioned
an independent review of use of restraint in juvenile secure settings.
together with the Government's response,
was published on 15 December 2008. The review looked in depth
at the range of issues relating to use of restraint, particularly
the question of safety. It recommended substantial changes in
relation to the systems approved for use in young offender institutions
and secure training centres. It also recommended that all systems
used in the under-18 secure estate should be accredited and proposed
significant improvements relating to training, monitoring, inspection
and reporting. The Government accepted almost all of the review's
recommendations. We are now pressing ahead with the implementation
of these recommendations.
(d) Criminalisation of children
The Government does not want to see the unnecessary
criminalisation of children and has taken significant steps, notably
through the Youth Crime Action Plan,
to both prevent children and young people falling into crime and,
where they do display the early signs, to ensure that there are
sufficient opportunities to avoid formally entering the criminal
justice system. In 2007-08, in England, 10,000 fewer young people
entered the criminal justice system for the first time compared
to the previous year. The Government's goal is to reduce the number
of first-time entrants to the criminal justice system aged 10-17
by one fifth from current levels by 2020.
(e) Death in custody
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman automatically
investigates the deaths of children in custody and has a duty
to carry out an independent investigation into the circumstances
surrounding deaths in accordance with Article 3 of E European
Charter of Human Rights. The Ombudsman's reports also focus on
learning the lessons to help prevent deaths in custody in future.
An inquest is held into the death of every young person in custody.
Inquests are wholly independent and have a jury which must take
into account the evidence presented and come to a conclusion about
the probable cause of death. All inquests are compliant with Article
2 of the European Charter of Human Rights.
Following the recommendations made by the coroners
investigating two deaths in 2004, the Government published an
Action Plan addressing each of the recommendations in turn and
setting out work under way to address the recommendations. The
latest update to the Action Plan was published in December 2008.
3. REFUGEE AND
CHILDRENThe Select Committee
ask for evidence on: practical impact of the removal of the reservation
against article 22; the treatment of Asylum seeking children (with
particular interest in the balance of child wellbeing versus deportation).
in the immigration system
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is committed to
dealing sensitively with children. It has introduced a statutory
Code of Practice for Keeping Children Safe from Harm
that requires UKBA staff and contractors to be responsive to children's
needs in the immigration process. In particular, it requires them
to be vigilant for any indications that children might be at risk
of harm and to make appropriate referrals to a relevant statutory
child protection body. The Code also requires UKBA staff to be
trained in specific children's issues. The Government has also
decided that the Agency should be subject to a duty to have regard
to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children,
equivalent to that in section 11 of the Children Act 2004. The
Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill currently before Parliament
includes a clause to achieve this.
(b) Reservation against article 22 (immigration)
On 21 September 2008, following public consultation,
the Government announced its intention to remove its general reservation
relating to immigration on the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child (UNCRC). The reservation was formally lifted on 18 November
2008. Withdrawing the reservation was made possible largely because
of the way UKBA has transformed child protection arrangements
since 1991. The UKBA are keeping a close eye on progress and being
alert to the need for further improvements in practice.
(c) Children in detention
Children are detained only where necessary and for
as short a period as possible. Children are usually detained under
Immigration Act powers only where this is necessary to effect
the removal of their family. Unaccompanied children may be detained
in the following limited circumstances:
very exceptionally, overnight whilst
alternative arrangements are made for their care;
on the day of a planned removal, to facilitate
their safe and supervised escort between their place of residence
and the port; and
in exceptional circumstances where it
can be shown that an ex-foreign national prisoner aged under 18
poses a serious risk to the public and a decision to deport or
remove him/her has been taken.
Where the detention of families with children
is prolonged, this is often because their parents frustrate the
removal process. The Courts have held that continued detention
in such circumstances remains lawful.
(d) Use of force (restraint)
It is sometimes necessary to use force to effect
the removal from the UK of failed asylum seekers, illegal immigrants
and foreign national prisoners. Where children are involved, UKBA
uses force only where there is an imminent threat or harm to an
individual or to property. It is used only as a last resort when
all other avenues of compliance with removal have been exhausted
and it must be justified, necessary and proportionate to the situation.
Where approval is given to use force on a child, it is carried
out using approved Physical Protection in Care techniques; only
rarely in very disruptive cases will the use of restraints be
The use of force on children in detention is extremely
rare and would be considered only for the safety or protection
from harm of the child.
(e) Asylum seeking children
The complex welfare issues of unaccompanied
asylum seeking children are of paramount importance. Such children
and young people are not returned to countries unless the family
has been satisfactorily traced or acceptable reception and care
arrangements are in place. This applies even where unaccompanied
asylum seeking children have been found not to need international
In these circumstances discretionary leave may be
granted until they reach the age of 17½. Young people have
the chance to make a fresh application for permission to stay
in the country after this point, or leave the UK. Anyone making
a further application to stay on the basis that they are at risk
of persecution will need to demonstrate a well founded fear of
Select Committee has asked for evidence on : discrimination against
children on the grounds of age or disability (in relation to the
Equality bill); discrimination against children in education (access
by vulnerable groups, child participation, complaints, bullying
exclusions and segregation).
on the grounds of age or disability
School children already benefit from protection
against discrimination on grounds of disability under the Disability
Discrimination Act (DDA) and this protection will not be diluted
in the new equality bill.
The age provisions in the proposed Equality Bill
will not extend to the under 18s. Extending age legislation to
children could have unintended effect of diluting protection that
are in place rather than enhancing it.
A Child's age is closely related to its needs
and development and therefore children need to be treated differently
as they grow and develop, services for children are tailored in
an age-appropriate way and schools are organised according to
age. However, pupil will still be well-protected under all the
other equality strands such as (disability, ethnicity, gender,
religion or belief, gender identity and sexual orientation/identity)
and under the general duties of care that schools have to provide.
(b) Access to education by vulnerable groups
The Government's aim is a society where all
children and young people achieve their full potential and where
the momentum of success, enjoyment and learning continues into
their adult lives regardless of their social class, ethnicity,
gender or ability.
Narrowing attainment gaps between advantaged and
disadvantaged groups of pupils remains a top priority for the
Government. There is evidence that the gap is narrowing for pupils
eligible for free school meals, and for most ethnic groups; sustained
rise for black pupils particularly welcome.
However we recognise that there is still more
work to be done. The Government places a particular emphasis on
support for those groups most at risk of underachieving such as
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils.
Personalisation and focus on individual progress
will further narrow remaining gaps. Strong performance in primary
years bodes well for future.
(c) Children with disability
The Government is committed to continuing to
develop an inclusive education system, whilst recognising both
that the general education system in the UK includes a range of
provision, including mainstream and special schools, and that
some children's needs are best met by specialist provision, which,
particularly for those in rural areas, can be some distance from
their home. Nor does the Government want to reduce parental choice
if such specialist provision was no longer available. So, while
mainstream schools can and do work collaboratively with local
authorities' support services and special schools, in order to
ensure that the wide spectrum of special needs are met, we are
seeking an interpretive declaration/reservation to Article 24
of the UN Convention of Rights of People with Disabilities Convention.
Following representations we are considering how these concerns
should be expressed to best reflect the Government's commitment
to inclusion of disabled people.
Aiming High for Disabled Children is the government's
transformation programme for disabled children and young people
jointly delivered by DCSF and DH. The Government is investing
£340 million of revenue funding to improve services such
as Short Breaks (£280 million), Transition support for disabled
young people (£19 million) and Accessible childcare (£35
In addition, Aiming High will provide whole
system improvements through national expectation setting, performance
management and user involvement. These include establishing Core
offer standards (building on existing NSF Standard 8) and measuring
parental experience of services for disabled children through
a disability indicator.
(d) Child participation
The Government is committed to engaging the
views of children and young people in developing policy. The development
of the Play Strategy is a prime example, being based on over 9000
consultation responses from children and young people including
The DCSF's Children and Youth Board (CYB) was established
as part of the Every Child Matters programme, where a commitment
was made to ensuring the participation of children and young people
in shaping the services that affect their lives. The Board is
made up of 25 Children and Young people aged 8-18 representing
a wide range of backgrounds across the Country. The CYB work directly
with Ministers and officials on policy development.
Since its establishment in 2004 the CYB has
been instrumental in shaping the DCSF thinking and designing of
services for children. The Board has been involved in a range
of policy areas including the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, Youth
Matters, Guidance for schools on Disability Discrimination Act
2005, improving school behaviour and the Children's Plan. They
also played an important role in the recruitment of the first
Children's Commissioner for England. The Children and Youth Board
provide an important channel through which the Department seeks
young people's views on policies and provides the opportunity
to better tailor and implement policy to the needs of children
and young people themselves.
The Government encourages schools to involve
pupils in decisions on issues which affect them.
In March 2008, the Government updated Working
Together: Listening to the voices of children and young people
which promotes the participation of children and young people
in decision-making in schools and provides advice on the principles
and effective practice that support such involvement.
On 17 November 2008, the Government introduced
a duty on governing bodies of maintained schools to consider pupils'
views on matters, which affect them. Schools will have to consult
their pupils on a core set of policies which will be set out in
regulations; however they are not restricted to these areas and
can consult pupils on any matters they choose that are not prescribed
in the regulations. There will be a full consultation during Spring
2009 on the matters on which school must consult and which will
be prescribed in regulations. The new duty will come into force
from September 2010.
We will be consulting in the Spring on the broad
principle of giving children and young people the right to appeal
decisions on exclusions and special educational needs (SEN) assessments
and statements. We have already, through the Education and Skills
Act (2008), given young peopled from 16 onwards the right to appeal
decisions on admissions. The consultation will consider what,
if any, additional support is needed to help children and young
people through the appeals process. We have recently consulted
on giving parents and young people the right to apply to the new
Our focus is on preventing bad behaviour from degenerating
to the point where exclusionand particularly permanent
exclusionis necessary. We asked Sir Alan Steer to review
the progress made in improving behaviour in recent years and to
look at what more might be done, including increasing the effectiveness
of behaviour and attendance partnerships.
Sir Alan produced an initial report in March 2008
which recommended involving all schools in partnerships for improving
behaviour and tackling persistent absence98% of secondary
schools are reported to be working this way. He reiterated his
findings in his more recent report and identified key characteristics
of effective behaviour partnerships. We are taking this forward
through legislation in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and
Learning Bill, which has just (4 Feb 2009) been introduced to
Parliament. The legislation will require all secondary schools
to cooperate in these partnerships.
We are working with local authorities and schools
to encourage a collaborative approach to managing support and
provision for pupils at risk of exclusion and those already excluded
and to promote the use of preventive strategies to reduce the
need for exclusion. Nearly all secondary schools are now working
together in local partnerships to improve behaviour and tackle
We plan to undertake a consultation in Spring
2009 on giving pupils under 18 a right of appeal following their
permanent exclusion from school.
In May 2008, we published the White Paper, "Back
on Track", setting out our proposals for transforming
the quality of alternative education provision. Central to the
"Back on Track" strategy is a focus on early
intervention, stronger accountability and increased and better
partnership working between all involvedlocal authorities,
maintained schools, special schools, pupil referral units and
voluntary/private sector providers. The White Paper emphasised
that we want schools and local authorities to make more, and better,
use of alternative provision as a form of early intervention to
address behavioural problems.
The Government has sent a strong message to
all that bullying is not acceptable in our schools, making it
clear that all forms of bullying, including those motivated by
prejudice, must not be tolerated and should always incur disciplinary
sanctions. Providing a safe and happy learning environment is
integral to achieving the wider objectives of school improvement:
raising attainment, improving school attendance; promoting equality
and diversity; and ensuring the welfare of all members of the
school community. Since 1999 all schools have had a legal duty
to have measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying in
schools. Staff have new powers also to regulate the conduct of
pupils when they are outside the school premises.
We have published a comprehensive suite of guidance,
Safe to Learn
embedding anti-bullying work in schools, which provides
schools with advice on how to prevent and tackle all forms of
bullying including prejudice-driven bullying and cyberbullying.
We also published tailored guidance on how to
prevent and tackle the bullying of children with SEN and disabilities
in schools in May 2008, and this forms part of our "Safe
to Learn" suite of guidance. It provides schools with
advice on their statutory obligations in respect of children with
SEN and disabilities, and outlines a range of strategies and approaches
to tackling this form of bullying.
The Anti-Bullying Alliance and National Strategies
are working with Local Authorities and schools to ensure the guidance
is effectively implemented in schools, and to provide challenge
and support, where necessary.
(h) Community Cohesion
In England, the Children's Plan (section 3.96)
sets out our aim to achieve a situation where children understand
others, value diversity, apply and defend human rights; fulfil
their potential and succeed at the highest level possible, with
no barriers to access and participation in learning and to wider
activities, and no variation between outcomes for different groups;
and have real and positive relationships with people from different
backgrounds, and feel part of a community, at a local, national
and international level.
There is a duty on maintained schools to promote
community cohesion which came into effect in September 2007, and
which Ofsted have inspected since September 2008. We have published
(in July 2007) and also produced an online resource pack
for schools (in May 2008). We are working to encourage local authorities
to consider schools and youth services as an integral part of
their community cohesion strategies.
5. VICTIMS OF
Select Committee has asked for evidence on: child trafficking
victims including ratification of the Optional Protocol on the
Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography ( what
changes are needed and what is required).
(a) Child trafficking
Responsibility for the care, protection and
accommodation of child trafficking victims falls within the designated
responsibilities of local authorities. Separated and vulnerable
children from abroad enjoy exactly the same entitlements as all
UK born or resident children.
In July last year we published our revised National
Action Plan on Human Trafficking and we ratified the Council
of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings
in December. Both strengthen our existing identification and protection
arrangements for child victims of trafficking.
(b) UNCRC Optional Protocol on the sale
of children, child prostitution and child pornography
The UK Government signed the Optional Protocol
in 2001. It has strengthened the law, developed a range of practical
measures to assist law enforcement agencies, children's services
and other organisations, and strengthened mechanisms for international
cooperation. The UK is currently taking the necessary formal steps
to complete the process of ratifying the Optional Protocol.
6. CHILD POVERTYThe
Select Committee ask for evidence on how best to enshrine in law
the Government's goal of eradicating child poverty by 2020, in
view of the right of every child to an adequate standard of living
under article 27.
Significant progress has already been made:
between 1998/99 and 2006/07, some 600,000 children have been lifted
out of relative poverty and the number of children living in absolute
poverty has halved from 3.4 million to 1.7 million children (HBAI
2005-06). We estimate that had the Government done nothing and
simply uprated the 1997 tax and benefit system in line with prices,
around 2 million more children would be likely to live in poverty
today. In addition, Government measures over the past two years
will result in lifting around a further 500,000 children out of
In 2008 the Government stated its intention
to introduce legislation to enshrine in law our pledge to eradicate
child poverty. This will reinforce the 2020 commitment to eradicate
child poverty and help to ensure that we stay on course and take
action now to tackle the causes as well as the consequences of
poverty. Legislation will set out a clear definition of success
and create an accountability framework to drive and accelerate
progress at national and local level. We are currently consulting
with stakeholders on how legislation can best drive the action
needed, with a Bill to be introduced in Spring this year. Current
proposals include the nature and level of targets, a duty to set
a strategy, a duty to report annually on progress, and the establishment
of an expert commission to feed into the strategy.
As the Government made clear in its interpretive
declaration on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children
in Armed Conflict, the minimum age of entry into the UK Armed
Forces remains at 16 and recruitment is totally voluntary. No
applicant under 18 years of age may join the Armed Forces unless
the application is accompanied by the formal written consent of
his/her parent or guardian.
We recognise the importance of providing special
treatment for young people under the age of 18 serving in the
Armed Forces and our policy is not to deploy under-18s on operations
and we have introduced administrative guidelines and procedures
to ensure they are withdrawn from their units before they are
deployed to hostilities. We believe that our policies on under-18s
are robust and compliant with national and international law.
Naturally, we will continue to keep them under review.
In financial 2007-08 a total of 5,980 under-18s
were recruited into the Armed Forces (Royal Navy 830; Army 4,750;
Royal Air Force 400), which represents approximately 28% of the
183 Independent Review of Restraint in Juvenile
Secure Settings Peter Smallridge and Andrew Williamson, December
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, Cm 7501. Back
H M Government Youth Crime Action Plan 2008, July 2008. Back
The Government's response to Coroners' recommendations following
the inquests of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood, December 2008. Back
UK Border Agency Code of Practice for Keeping Children Safe
from Harm, issued under Section 21 of the UK Borders Act 2007,
UKBA, December 2008. Back
DCSF(2008) Working Together: Listening to the voices of children
and young people http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/AdvanceVersions/CRC.C.GBR.CO.4.pdf