Legal Update: In a Nutshell - Government report on children's rights

Coram Children's Legal Centre
Monday, March 30, 2015

A report finds that more must be done to ensure the government's compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A government report, published by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, assessed the progress that had been made by the government since its December 2010 commitment to give "due regard" to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) when making policy and legislation.

What did the committee find about government processes for implementing children's rights?

The committee said that more must be done by the government to realise the aims of the convention through policy and legislation. The committee emphasised that commitment must be spread across all of government "to impress upon ministers outside the Department for Education the central importance of children's rights for a just and healthy society".

The committee also recommended that the government ratify the Third Optional Protocol to the UNCRC, which would give children the right of individual petition to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

As well as this, redress should be provided for children by giving the children's commissioner for England equivalent powers to her counterparts in the devolved administrations to take up individual children's cases.

The committee called for the incoming government after the election to renew the commitment to give due regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when developing law and policy, and to ensure that all memoranda accompanying legislation provide a detailed assessment of the potential impacts of legislative changes on children.

What key issues did the committee highlight?

The committee expressed particular concern about the impact that legal aid cuts are having on children and their ability to realise their rights. It expressed concern that the legal aid cuts "have been a significant black mark" on the government's human rights record and stated that there are "firm grounds for a new government of whatever make-up to look again at these reforms and to undo some of the harm they have caused to children".

In relation to children in the immigration system, it said that overall, the situation has grown worse overall during this Parliament, and that "the Home Office seems still to prioritise the need to control immigration over the best interests of the child. This is unsatisfactory".

It also expressed concern about the use of force on children in custody, and the lack of extension of the special educational needs reforms under the Children and Families Act 2014 to children in custody, requesting that this be addressed "as a matter of urgency by the next government".

While the committee acknowledged the improvements that the Government has made to the special educational needs system under the act, it expressed its concern over section 33 of the act. According to this section, the commitment to educating children with special educational needs in mainstream schools does not apply where to do so would interfere with the "provision of efficient education of others" and where there are "no reasonable steps" that can be taken to avoid this. The committee said this provision "could be used to significantly dilute the benefit of the government's reforms in this area".

Legal Update is produced in association with experts at Coram Children’s Legal Centre ?

?For free legal advice on issues relating to migrant children call 0207 636 8505

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