Right to be heard
One of the
most innovative aspects of the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child is its focus on children’s participation rights. Article 12 of
the Convention assures to all children who are capable of forming a view the
right to express that view freely in all matters affecting him or her; and
these must views be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of
the child. Children should in particular be given the opportunity to be heard
in any judicial or administrative proceeding affecting them.
Other rights in the Convention – for example, to access information, freedom of association and expression, and respect for the child's evolving capacity – actively support the implementation of Article 12. The Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment ‘The right of the child to be heard’ states that these rights are complementary and interrelated: together they ensure all children can participate in matters affecting them.
CRAE monitors, defends and seeks to strengthen children’s right to participate. We have produced a range of resources to improve participation practice, including through our founding membership of the Participation Works consortium.
We have substantial experience of working with children and young people to bring about change and ensuring that their views are heard. For information on how we could work with you, download our children’s rights investigation service leaflet.
CRAE action to protect children's participation rights:
LAW AND POLICY
- For many years CRAE has led lobbying to bring English education law and practice in line with Scotland and Wales and the rest of Europe by ensuring consultation rights for school students. We achieved a significant victory during the passage of the Education and Skills Act 2008 which introduces a duty on school governing bodies to "invite and consider" children and young people's views. However, draft regulations published in January 2010 threaten to considerably restrict this new duty. We are once again lobbying strongly for children and young people's right to be heard and taken seriously in school.
- CRAE has also led lobbying for children to have the right to fully participate in the school exclusion process and to have the right to appeal their exclusion in their own name. In 2008 statutory guidance removed the parent’s right of veto on a child’s participation in the exclusion process and clarified the child’s right to be heard. Following lobbying by CRAE, the then Government issued a consultation on extending the right to appeal.
- We have lobbied for children to be able to appeal to the Upper Tier Tribunal about special educational needs statements and assessments and to make a disability discrimination claim against schools in their own name.
- During passage of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, we succeeded in placing a duty on the Local Government Ombudsman to publish information about the procedures for making complaints about schools to them, including what assistance is available to students who are, or have been in care, disabled children and parents, and children with special education needs. We secured commitments from the then Government that independent advocacy will be built into the testing phase of the new service; that information about making a complaint will be available to children and young people in an appropriate language and format; and statutory guidance on complaints will include the measures schools must take to ensure children, siblings and parents are protected from detrimental treatment after they make a complaint.
Children in contact with social services
- Following lobbying by CRAE, the Children Act 1989 was amended in 2004 to place a duty on social workers to give due consideration to the ascertainable wishes and feelings of children when conducting child protection enquiries and considering providing services to children in need.
- In 2010, our lobbying led to significant changes to statutory guidance for all those working with children, giving it a much stronger focus on forming positive relationships with children and respecting their wishes and feelings. This include a revision of the definition of emotional abuse to include not giving the child opportunities to express their views or deliberately silencing them and a requirement for social workers to record children's wishes and feelings.
Children in care
- During the passage of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, we secured a commitment that care planning regulations would impose a legal requirement on social workers to record the views of children about their care. The revised regulations, published in 2010, states that the child’s wishes and feelings must be included in their placement plan, health plan, personal education plan and their care plan.
- We also pushed for statutory Children in Care Councils. First promoted by the Government in 2006, the Councils were not included in the Children and Young Persons Act. During the passage of the legislation, the then Children's Minister Lord Adonis confirmed that every local authority would be expected to establish a Children in Care Council, and that Ofsted would monitor them from 2009. We continue to press Government to issue the guidance.
- We have worked with organisations such as Voice and The Children’s Society to strengthen children’s right to an independent advocate and the role of Independent Reviewing Officers.
Children running organisations
- We are still trying to persuade the Government to take action to ensure young people can continue as Trustees of third sector organisations. Changes in the law, which came into force in October 2008, mean that under 16s are now prohibited from being company directors, including of incorporated charities. We are trying to persuade Ministers to use their power to introduce regulations to exempt charities from the 2008 changes.
Children involved in local decision making
- In 2010, we were successful in ensuring regulations place a duty on Children’s Trust Board to consult children and young people when preparing their Children and Young People’s Plan. For the first time, statutory guidance issued to the Boards requires a version of the Plan to be published which is suitable for children and young people.
- CRAE has worked to ensure that new right of citizens to petition local authorities includes under 18s. We have also sought to ensure that children are involved in participatory budgeting and making proposals under the Sustainable Communities Act.
Children involved in national decision making
- In 2008 we lobbied for various ammendments to the Government Code of Practice on Consultations. The code of practice now highlights the need to engage younger citizens in Government consultations.
- CRAE is a founding member of the Votes at 16 Coalition. Learn more about our work protecting democratic rights.
policy clerk to the National
Participation Forum. The forum brings together influential organisations
and individuals committed to the participation of children and young people. We
are helping to shape the development of a ten
year strategy for children and young people’s participation.
- CRAE is a founding partner of Participation Works, a consortium of six national children and young people's agencies that enables organisations to effectively involve children and young people in the development, delivery and evaluation of services that affect their lives.
- In July 2005, we launched our comprehensive participation training materials, called Ready Steady Change. In 2007, we published ‘Training for change’ an overview of the impact the training materials have made in a variety of settings. Our partners Participation Works offer a one-day introductory workshop on Ready Steady Change.
- In 2009, we published ‘Another Perspective’ – guidance to journalists on reporting children’s human rights stories. Endorsed by the National Union of Journalists, it features helpful information on making a reality of children's right to be heard.
- In March 2010, we published the second edition of Listen and Change – an introductory guide to children and young people’s participation rights. This guide aims to increase understanding of children and young people’s participation rights and how they can be realised in local authority and third sector settings. It can be purchased from Participation Works.
- In April 2010, CRAE issued guidance to help practitioners support children and young people to design, deliver and evaluate campaigns that bring about change. The How to guide includes information on legal barriers to campaigning and ethical involvement of children in campaigns. It can be purchased from Participation Works.
- Our annual review of the state of children’s rights in England monitors the extent to which Government action helps or hinders children’s right to be heard.
- In 2010, in collaboration with NCB and with the support of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, we published an in-depth study of children’s participation in England. The study includes the views of children, practitioners, organisation and published literature.
- Our national co-ordinator was commissioned to write a paper for the Council of Europe on increasing the action taken by member states to promote and protect the participation rights of children and young people. Many of the report's recommendations were included in the Parliamentary Assembly's recommendations to the Committee of Ministers in March 2009.
- In 2007, we published research into the role of the Directors of Children’s Services and the extent to which they were supporting children’s participation rights.
CHILDREN'S OWN CAMPAIGNS
- We run a Young Activists Network for children and young people. The network is free for anyone under 18 and is the main mechanism we use for informing children about their rights and engaging them in campaigning for change.
- Our You’ve Got the Right project informs children and young people of their legal rights and how they can seek redress. Lawyers for Children’s Rights Network members are given information on effectively listening to children and young people.
- We supported children and young people to run a major children’s rights investigation and to report their views and experiences direct to the United Nations. Our three-year Get ready for Geneva project, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, was described by the Vice-Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as a model for Europe.
- We have supported children to attend international decision-making processes, such as the UN Special Session for Children in 2002 and its five-year review in 2007.
- From 2001-2006, CRAE ran a pioneering project called “U What?” which supported the involvement of children in the development of Government policy and laws that affect them, through translating and distributing Government documents and providing guidance on the policy-making process.
- In 2001, CRAE supported children to establish their own campaign for a Children's Rights Commissioner (they called their campaign 'Right Here Right Now'). Children all over England ran a variety of activities to try and make the case for an independent children's rights champion. In June 2002 Diana Savickaja, Joel Semakula, Gbemi Sodimu, Andy Butler, James Sweeney and Fred Tyson Brown were the first under 18 year-olds to ever give evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. They explained the role and function of a Children's Rights Commissioner and answered questions from Parliamentarians. When asked how a Children's Rights Commissioner might make children's lives better, one of the group replied: ‘A Children’s Rights Commissioner would make children’s lives better because children will be able to have their own say and for something to be actually done about it. The Commissioner will have the power to make things actually happen. He or she would be independent and nobody will be able to tell him or her that they cannot do it’.