The four UK Children’s Commissioners are calling on the UK Government and its devolved governments to address the systemic disadvantages facing children and young people across the nations.
In a joint report to the UN, the Commissioners conclude that the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the systemic disadvantages faced by thousands and identify services that have been critically affected.
Within the report – which assesses the UK’s performance in protecting children’s rights over the last five years – they call for a ‘no wrong door’ approach to mental health services, where no child or young person who needs help is turned away without any support. The report also calls on the four nations to focus on lifting many more out of poverty through the reversal of the most damaging aspects of welfare reform measures, and through clear and immediate action plans for ending child poverty.
Speaking on behalf of the four Commissioners, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:
“Our assessment of where our Governments are in protecting children’s human rights is unsurprising. The UK is a relatively rich country but yet the number of children living in poverty continues to rise; with the impact of Covid-19 widening inequalities and making things increasingly more difficult for families. Mental health services are not adequately resourced and readily available to those children that need help.
“These are basic human rights issues that we have reported on repeatedly over the last few years. Whilst there have been pockets of positive developments, ultimately, these are policy choices made by the four nations and this pandemic has highlighted the need for all policy makers to place the best interests of children and their human rights at the heart of decision-making. When done effectively, we’ve seen such positive outcomes for children, including the removal of the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ in Scotland and extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds in Wales. However, this needs to become a systematic way of working across the UK to ensure an end to the persistent disadvantages faced by some of our more vulnerable children and young people.”
All four UK Children’s Commissioners conclude each nation should incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into their domestic laws. This would create a systematic way of working across the UK, ensure an end to the persistent disadvantages faced by some of our more vulnerable children and young people and ultimately improve their lives.
Every five years, the UK Government and its devolved governments are required to report to the UN Committee on its progress on children’s rights. The UN Committee makes recommendations for improvement – Concluding Observations – on the information it receives. National human rights institutions, such as the UK Children’s Commissioners, also make submissions to the UN Committee to inform its deliberations.