The UK's compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents



1  PURPOSE OF THE INQUIRY

1. Towards the end of 2014 we decided to review our work since the 2010 Election in the area of children's rights with a view to publishing a Report before the end of the Parliament. This Report would, amongst other things, assess the progress that has been made by the Government since its December 2010 commitment to give "due regard" to the UNCRC when making new policy or legislation, explore the implications of the changes to the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England and analyse the extent to which the situation for children's rights has improved or deteriorated with regard to those areas on which we have reported over the Parliament: these include the rights of migrant children, child trafficking, children in custody, children with special educational needs ("SEN"), and children and legal aid.

2. As this Parliament is drawing to a close, the time for this inquiry was short. We acknowledge that in many areas all we have been able to do is to give a snapshot as reported to us in the evidence we received of some of the key challenges facing the full realisation of children's rights. WE VERY MUCH HOPE THAT OUR SUCCESSOR COMMITTEE WILL USE THE OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED TO IT TO CONTINUE TO USE THE UNCRC AS A TOOL FOR ASSESSING POLICY AND LEGISLATION, AND WILL CONSIDER TAKING FORWARD ONE OR MORE OF THE PROBLEMATIC POLICY AREAS WE HAVE HIGHLIGHTED IN THIS REPORT FOR AN INQUIRY AT AN EARLY STAGE IN THE NEW PARLIAMENT. WE WOULD ALSO COMMEND TO OUR SUCCESSOR COMMITTEE THE NEED TO RECOGNISE THE DIFFERENT APPROACHES OF THE DEVOLVED ADMINISTRATIONS AND THE CHALLENGES PRESENTED IN ACHIEVING A COHERENT OVERARCHING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CONVENTION.

3. Our assessment of children's rights takes place against the background of the May 2014 submission of the UK Government's periodic report on the UNCRC to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and its May 2016 examination by that Committee. We note that the UN has recently sought to increase the role of parliaments in UN processes in general and in relation to human rights in particular, and has resolved to make a greater effort to integrate a parliamentary contribution to its reviews of states' international commitments.[1] WE WELCOME THE RECENT MOVES IN THE UN TO ENCOURAGE GREATER PARLIAMENTARY INVOLVEMENT IN ITS HUMAN RIGHTS MACHINERY, INCLUDING THE WORK OF THE TREATY BODIES THAT MONITOR STATES' COMPLIANCE WITH THEIR OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES. WE HOPE THAT THIS REPORT WILL BE OF ASSISTANCE TO THE UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD WHEN IT EXAMINES THE UK GOVERNMENT'S PERIODIC REVIEW REPORT.

4. On 4 February we took evidence from the outgoing Children's Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson, and from the incoming Commissioner, Anne Longfield. On 11 February, we took evidence from Paola Uccellari, Director, Children's Rights Alliance for England, Natalie Williams, Policy Adviser, the Children's Society, Kate Aubrey-Johnson, Youth Justice & Strategic Litigation Fellow, Just for Kids Law, and Dragan Nastic, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Unicef UK. Finally, on 25 February we took evidence from Edward Timpson MP, Minister of State for Children and Families, the Department for Education.

5. We also received eleven written submissions, from Child Soldiers International, the Howard League for Penal Reform, JustRights, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Just for Kids Law, Carolyne Willow, Clan Childlaw Ltd., Together (the Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights), Children Are Unbeatable!, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Youth Justice Board and the Children's Society. Correspondence has been received from the Children's Commissioners for Wales, the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People, the Chief Executive to the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, and the Chair of Together (the Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights), highlighting the position of children in the devolved jurisdictions and the important devolutionary angle to the inquiry.

6. We thank all those who gave oral evidence to us, submitted written memoranda or otherwise contributed to our work during this inquiry.

GENERAL BACKGROUND

7. On 23 May 2014, the Government submitted its fifth periodic report to the United Nations on its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)[2]. The UN Committee will hear evidence from NGOs and children (at the pre-sessional working group) in October 2015, following which the UN Committee will hear evidence from the UK Government in May 2016. Finally, the UN Committee will issue its concluding observations in the summer of 2016.

8. On publication of the Government's fifth periodic report, a joint statement was issued by a coalition of charities, which expressed disappointment at some elements of the report and stated that in many areas the Government was failing to meet its commitment to assess fully the impact of its policies on the rights of all children.[3] We decided as a result of this to undertake an assessment of the Government's report against our own findings over this Parliament connected with children's rights issues

9. In addition to the UNCRC reporting process, we were also mindful of the Second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UK by the UN Human Rights Council (July 2012), which made a number of recommendations relating to children's rights issues, and the UK's Mid-Term Report on the UPR submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in 2014.[4] We had received a memorandum from three children's charities (Save the Children, UNICEF UK and Children's Rights Alliance for England) concerning the UPR Review and some of the criticisms it had contained concerning the Government's record on children's rights.

10. We have ourselves, during the current Parliament, made a number of recommendations in relation to children's rights issues that are relevant to both the UNCRC examination and UPR recommendations, for example in relation to:

·  the Government's 2010 Ministerial commitment to give due consideration to the UNCRC when developing law and policy;[5]

·  child poverty;[6]

·  juvenile justice, including children in detention;[7]

·  children's access to legal aid;[8]

·  unaccompanied migrant children;[9]

·  special educational needs ("SEN") provision;[10] and

·  the reform of the Children's Commissioner for England.[11]

11. Our Reports on these subjects have contained both positive comments, welcoming a number of measures which clearly enhance children's rights and the machinery for their protection, and more critical conclusions—including recommendations as to how the rights of children could be better protected. We have used progress made against our recommendations as a yard-stick to assess some areas of the Government's record on children's rights in this Report.


1   See e.g. UN General Assembly Resolution 66/261, Interaction between the United Nations, National Parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (29 May 2012). Back

2   The Fifth Periodic Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, May 2014, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC%2fC%2fGBR%2f5&Lang=en Back

3   http://www.crae.org.uk/news/charities-challenge-government-to-assess-impact-of-its-policies-on-children's-human-rights/ Back

4   United Nations Universal Periodic Review-Mid-Term Report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown Dependencies (2014) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398295/uk-upr-mid-term-report-2014.pdf  Back

5   Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), First Report of Session 2013-14, Human Rights of unaccompanied migrant children and young people in the UK, HL Paper 9/HC 196 Back

6   JCHR, Twenty-first Report of Session 2010-12, Legislative Scrutiny: Welfare Reform Bill, HL Paper 233/HC 1704 Back

7   JCHR, Fourteenth Report of Session 2013-14, Legislative Scrutiny: (1) Criminal Justice and Courts Bill and (2) Deregulation Bill, HL Paper 189/HC 1293 Back

8   JCHR, Seventh Report of Session 2013-14, The implications for access to justice of the Government's proposals to reform legal aid, HL Paper 100/HC 766; and First Report of Session 2014-15, Legal aid: children and the residence test, HL Paper 14/HC 234 Back

9   JCHR, First Report of Session 2013-14, Human Rights of unaccompanied migrant children and young people in the UK, HL Paper 9/HC 196 Back

10   JCHR, Third Report of Session 2013-14, Legislative Scrutiny: Children and Families Bill; Energy Bill, HL Paper 29/HC 157 Back

11   JCHR, Sixth Report of Session 2012-13, Reform of the Children's Commissioner: draft legislation, HL Paper 83/HC 811; and JCHR, Third Report of Session 2013-14, Legislative Scrutiny: Children and Families Bill; Energy Bill, HL Paper 29/HC 157 Back


 
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Prepared 24 March 2015