UN Committee issues damning report on UK’s child rights record
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (the UN Committee) has given a damning verdict on the UK’s child rights record concluding that it has serious concerns about the Government’s failure to focus on children’s needs.
The UN report, called the Concluding Observations, follows the UN’s examination of the UK Government on how well it is implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As part of the reporting process, CRAE coordinated the civil society report (endorsed by 76 organisations) and gave oral evidence at the Pres-sessional Working Group last October and supported children and young people to submit their own evidence. The final recommendations reflect a large number of concerns raised by CRAE.
The UN Committee concluded that, despite some progress from their last report in 2008, too often, children bear the brunt of government spending cuts and decisions are made without proper consideration of their effect on children. It called on the UK to “introduce a statutory obligation” to consider children’s needs “when developing laws and policies affecting children” and “adopt comprehensive action plans” to ensure children in the UK have the best start in life.
The UN Committee raised concern across a large number of areas: inadequate services for children’s mental health needs; the treatment of children in trouble with the law and children seeking asylum; the high numbers of homeless families with children who stay for long periods in bed and breakfast accommodation; high levels of air pollution in our cities; and the frequent changes of social workers and placements for children in care.
An area which came under particular scrutiny was the Government’s welfare reform agenda with the UN Committee concluding that it was “Seriously concerned at the effects that recent fiscal policies and allocation of resources” have had on children and that they’ve disproportionately affected children in disadvantaged situations. The report highlighted the recent reforms that have “limited the entitlement to child tax credits and social benefits… regardless of the need of households” The increasing levels of child poverty was also criticised.
Given its alarm over child poverty rates, the UN Committee was also troubled by the persistent inequalities in educational attainment, particularly for certain groups of children such as boys, children living in poverty, children in care and Roma, Gypsy and Traveller children.
The lack of respect towards children and a failure to listen to their views was another issue raised in the report. The UN Committee reiterated one of its previous recommendations that urgent action be taken to address the “intolerance of childhood” and general negative public attitudes towards children and young people and called for action to ensure that children’s opinions are better taken into account. It said that systems and structures must be established to ensure meaningful involvement of children in decision-making at both national and local level, including in education, leisure and play. As a strong advocate of the importance of listening to young children CRAE was very pleased to see that the UN Committee said that "Particular attention should be paid to younger children."
Responding to the report, Louise King, Director of CRAE said:
“The UN’s verdict on the UK’s treatment of children should act as a wake-up call that much more needs to be done to prioritise children’s rights in England. We want the Government to show leadership and take concerted action to address the UN’s concerns. To ensure a fresh focus on children, a senior, Cabinet-level minister must be given responsibility for putting children’s rights where they should be – at the heart of all government decision-making.”
In all, the UN Committee made over 150 recommendations for change. Following the vote to leave the EU, these recommendations are now more important than ever given wide-spread speculation that the UK is heading towards recession and the risk posed to the plethora of EU law and policy which provides valuable protection to children.
Over the next months and years, CRAE will be working hard to make sure that the UK Government fully addresses the UN’s concerns.
Read the full Concluding Observations
Read the CRAE press release