A children’s rights approach can help to deliver better outcomes for children and their families as well as giving a supportive and coherent framework to practitioners in what can be a challenging area of work.
The framework based on the five principles of embedding, empowerment, equality and non-discrimination, participation and accountability can help organisations consider what they are already doing to support and promote children’s rights, and also identify gaps and areas for development.
Embedding children’s rights means deliberately and systematically using children’s rights in the language an organisation uses, ensuring that staff understand children’s rights through training and development, and integrating rights thinking into service development.
Embedding rights in these ways mean that staff understand that they are duty-bearers; in other words they have a professional duty to uphold and promote children’s rights. It also means that children and their families hear the clear message that they receive services they need because they have a right to the support they need to achieve their potential. This avoids a deficit approach and sends an important signal to children of their inherent worth no matter what life’s thrown at them.
You can embed rights in your service by:
- Ensuring all policies and internal documents are underpinned by and explicitly mention the UNCRC. Reference to rights should be explicit and incorporate standards such as the National Participation Standards for Young People.
- Ensuring that staff, senior leadership and council are aware of children’s rights and how they can be upheld in everyday practice, individual roles and the delivery of the service.
Some practical ways to embed children’s rights into everyday practice:
- Use rights language in your everyday practice with children and their families. For example, ‘You have a right to be listened to and taken seriously. That’s why I want to meet up and hear more about…..’
- Use rights language to advocate on behalf of the children and young people you are working with. For example, ‘She has a right to the support she needs to recover from the abuse she experienced (article 39, UNCRC) therefore there is a strong case for providing this psychological support.’
- Encourage consideration of children’s rights in team discussions and supervision sessions.
Learn more about how Wrexham CBC have embedded rights in to their service:
Equality is about ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to make the most of their abilities. It is about ensuring children can develop to their fullest potential, and that no child has to endure poor life chances because of discrimination. Much of the work social services do for children is to help level the playing field for children who experience disadvantages. Services should be designed with the support needs of children at the centre. However, not all children will access this support in the same way and some will experience additional barriers due to poverty, racial prejudice, being disabled and other forms of inequality and marginalisation.
Practical ways for services to put the principle of equality and non-discrimination into practice
- Include a clear commitment to promoting equality and tackling direct and indirect discrimination against specific groups of children in all significant policies, and share this as a clear and consistent message across the service.
- Undertake Children’s Rights Impact Assessments, which incorporate analysis of equality issues, to consider how decisions at service level may impact different groups of children and what steps will be needed to mitigate this.
- Provide space for practitioners to understand and discuss challenges of equality and non-discrimination.
Learn more about how JIGSO apply the principle of equality and non discrimination:
Jigso is a team of midwives, nursery nurses (health), family facilitators and early language development workers (Local Authority). This partnership project has been developed to support young parents with their parenting journeys, many of whom are 18 or younger. Young parents often feel that they face discrimination due to stereotypes and assumptions about their backgrounds, behaviours and capabilities.
We met with parents receiving support from JigSo. They shared how the project had empowered them through their personal support, such as helping to advocate for the parents and child when required and giving time and practical tips to parenting. This joint project is a positive example of how services can work together to empower young parents through targeted support. It also demonstrates how services have worked to promote equality and non-discrimination by supporting families to reach their potential.
Those working with children in a social care context have a duty to help ensure children know that they have rights, have real opportunities to take them up and feel empowered by their rights. This takes many different forms for children; from using rights language with children, to making sure they can see their rights reflected in their interactions with professionals and the support they receive, to having their rights protected when they are faced barriers to accessing them. This element of a children’s rights approach is about making rights a reality for children.
Children who receive support from social services may not always feel empowered if they believe decisions are made about them, as opposed to being made with them. This was clear from the conversations we had with children – they wanted to know why decisions were made and to be fully included in the decision making. Children told us that at times, they will not always receive the outcome they wanted, but they want to know how that decision was made.
Practical ways for services to put the principle of empowerment into practice
- Provide children with accessible information and education to develop their understanding of their human rights. There are many resources available to support this:
- Provide children with opportunities and the skills to engage with and influence services’ policies and processes. Offer training and information accessible to children and establish clear guidelines for how children will influence decisions.
- Provide children and young people with opportunities to act collectively to develop ideas and proposals, to take action and to influence decisions.
NPTC Embedding children’s rights in social care:
Neath Port Talbot Council are passionate about upholding the rights of children and young people, and their Children’s Services directorate, with the support of Neath Port Talbot Children’s Rights Unit, have recently developed the role of ‘Children’s Rights Champions’. Champions are invited to attend a practical training workshop where they learn about the UNCRC and the five principles of a Children’s Rights Approach. This knowledge is then applied to the creation of an action plan which gives champions the opportunity to take ownership of how they can embed children’s rights into their current everyday practice, and considers ideas for service development. Children’s rights are everyone’s responsibility, through the recruitment of volunteer champions and development of an action plan, the local authority is committed to embedding children’s rights in practice.
Learn more about how Safe Stars TGP have empowered children:
Tros Gynnal Plant (TGP) supports a range of work in Wales, Safe Stars is supporting young people who need support from Social services to access their rights. Here you can find an example of some of the things they have created to support young people’s rights.
Safe stars has worked with young people during the pandemic to support them to produce resources that help empower them and provide information for other children and young people, here are some examples.
Article 12 – Right to be listened to and taken seriously
The Safe Stars worked with young people towards making a film about Advocacy:
Article 19 – Right to be kept safe
They’ve also created a Safeguarding Rap video:
You can find out more about their work here:
Participation means listening to children and taking their views meaningfully into account. All children should be supported to freely express their opinion; they should be both heard and listened to. Their views should be taken seriously when decisions or actions are taken that affect their lives directly or indirectly (as guaranteed by Article 12 of the UNCRC).
Participation can take place in different forms, appropriate to different circumstances. Children should be supported to take part in decisions that contribute to their lives, shape the services they use and the communities in which they live. Children should be encouraged to openly share their views, wishes and feelings and receive appropriate information and support on how to achieve this.
Practical ways for services to put the principle of participation into practice
- Recognise that there are different levels of participation, relevant to different circumstances. A participation strategy supported by a robust children’s rights impact assessment (link) will help guide the service on embedding of this principle.
- Include a clear commitment to participation of children in all significant policies, proposals and service developments;
- Provide a platform for children’s voices to be reflected in in all areas of practice that affect the child’s life.
- Provide opportunities for children and young people to be listened to. Tools and exercises can help structure this but so can spending time doing an activity with a child or young person, or simply going for a walk together.
- If a child or young person is finding it difficult to express their views as part of your assessment or routine contact with them, ask them how they’d like to be heard. Some might prefer to write down or video/audio record their views, perhaps with the help of a foster carer, parent or teacher. Remember to offer an advocate too.
Yovo and Lleisiau Bach/Little Voices
YoVo, the Neath Port Talbot children in care youth council are a group of young people who meet up to improve the lives of children and young people in care. With the support of adults from Neath Port Talbot Council and the Children’s Rights Unit, Yovo worked with Lleisiau Bach/Little Voices project at Swansea University to learn about their rights and issues they wanted to work on.
As a group of care experienced young people, they highlighted the importance of having information about foster placements. They want to ensure every child and young person going into foster care receives a booklet full of information and pictures of their new home, foster carers and other information, this will help children and young people during a difficult time be aware of their rights.
We worked with adults to make this happen and created this booklet and we’ve been told these Information booklets will be completed by all foster carers and given to children and young people, the booklets will be updated regularly and Social Workers will make sure booklets are keep up to date.
Mess up the Mess Case Study
Learn more about how Mess up the Mess encourage participation:
This project supported young people to access a range of rights in a fun and accessible way these include –
Article 12 – The right to be listened to
Article 28/29 – Right to education and reach their full potential
Article 15 – right to meet with friends and join groups
Article 31- right to relax and play
These packs were created in collaboration with the amazing Care Experienced young people of Swansea, Swansea Children’s Services Team and Mess Up The Mess Theatre Company, as part of a Well Iawn project funded by the The National Lottery Community Fund. We were in the midst of Covid19 lock-down, when Mess Up The Mess had the pleasure to meet the wonderful group of young people who are in the care system. We did this over Zoom meetings – a very different way of working but we still had a lot of fun.
We asked the young people what is affecting their and others well being. They said they were missing connection and how it is vital that in the future we start connecting with friends and family more. They also said it needed to involve food!!! This is how the pack was created. We worked with a talented team of artists, and cake designers to make the young people’s vision come true. The young people have been vital to designing this pack from start to finish
These are set of activity packs for you, your friends or colleagues to have fun, bake together, play together, laugh and connect. Be that with someone in person or connect through technology. There is a tasty recipe, fun activities and beautiful decorations for you to make at home; to make your time together feel extra special.
You can download these packs by visiting their page:
Authorities should be accountable to children for decisions and actions that affect their lives.
All staff working to support children in a social care context will have responsibilities and take decisions and actions that impact children. As corporate parents, these are statutory duties, and decisions must be made in a child’s best interest. Without clear lines of accountability and adequate information provided to children on why these decisions have been made, some children and their families can be left feeling disempowered.
Children should be provided with information and given access to procedures which enable them to question and challenge decisions that have been taken, should they wish to. For this to be effective, services need to be transparent and provide reasons for their decisions and actions. Wherever possible these should be linked to children’s rights. To obtain any right a child must know they are entitled to it and be able to actively claim it, including when making a complaint or challenging decisions and actions. Accountability means holding decision-makers to account, which requires information and data on performance against children’s rights standards.
Practical ways for services to put the principle of accountability into practice
- Provide opportunities for senior management and, in local authorities, cabinet members to be scrutinised by children.
- Ensure clear lines of accountability are in place in regards to decision making. Ensure this can be communicated to children if required;
- Develop good feedback loops with children and build these into service-wide expectations.
- Inform children and young people how their views and preferences have been taken into account
- Take children’s complaints seriously.
Learn about how Wrexham apply the accountability principle:
Children’s Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA)
Welsh Government use Children Right’s Impact Assessments (CRIA) to evidence how they have had regard to children’s rights in their decision making. Although not all public bodies are required to use CRIA, they can be a useful tool to prompt decision makers to stop and think about the implications of their plans and how to ensure they have the most positive impact possible on children and young people. In fact, some local authority staff asked us for a template CRIA document that they could use, so we have responded by producing this document that is free to use for anyone working in any type of organisation.
The document is designed to prompt your thinking on each of the five key principles of our Children’s Rights Approach and we’ve left space for you to note down your thinking but it does not have to be completed in full.
Simple Self-Assessment Tool
This self-assessment tool helps professionals and organisations to improve how they work with young people, including:
- linking your strategic plan to children’s rights
- providing information to children in accessible language
- giving children opportunities to make changes and influence your organisation’s work
- being accountable to children and young people
Top Tips from Young People
We have engaged with a number of groups across Wales to ask them their views to help us create The Right Way – Social Care.
By working with these young people we’ve managed to create a poster with some simple tips they want to share:
Child Social Work Agreement
We have created a session plan that provides an example of how an agreement between a child and their worker can be developed.
If you would like to know about our rights based agreement click on the link below:
4C’s Young Commissioners
The 4C’s have created a range of resources to support children and young people access their rights including:
‘This is Me’ and supporting guidance – Templates for Social Care professionals to use with to record information about them that can be shared and is “All about them by them”, these support –
Article 12 – Right to be heard and Article 17- Right to information
The ‘This Is Me’ templates have been developed by the Young Commissioners who think it is really important children are able to have their voice hear and share information about themselves with potential new carers when they have to move home. These templates are used as part of the referral process for the All Wales Frameworks and are completed and shared with providers when a young person requires a foster home or to live in a children’s home in Wales. Providers of these services and potential carers have said that when they receive a referral that includes the voice of the child work it can really give a feel for the individuality of the child and positively contributes to the matching process.
These are great age differentiated templates with tips on how to use them to record direct work with children. These documents form a key part of the All Wales Referrals and Matching Toolkit.
CHILDRENS specification statement – include quotes about what children need from a good home. This supports –
Article 20 – Right to be looked after properly and Article 12- right to be heard
The Children’s Specification Statement which is included in, and at the forefront of, the 2019 All Wales Residential Framework and the 2021 All Wales Foster Framework contracts. This ensures that the voice of the child is prioritised in the commissioning foster and residential placements for children with the independent sector in Wales.
Statement for recruiting carers – quotes about what children want from potential carers when they are unable to live at home. This supports –
Article 21 – If you can’t live with your parents, you have the right to live in the best place for you
This poster has been shared widely and is displayed in many care homes and foster provider premises across Wales. It is also available on the Social Care Wales website.