New report outlines systematic failures to protect children in England

A new report published today reveals how national and local government is failing to protect children in England whilst policymakers focus on Brexit, leaving children traumatised, powerless and vulnerable to abuse in many areas of their lives. The State of Children’s Rights in 2018 report includes new data gathered using Freedom of Information requests showing that:

  • Local authorities are making use of a legal loophole to house families in B&B accommodation for longer than the legal limit.[1] 1,641 families with children were housed in council-owned B&Bs and hotel-style accommodation in 2017, almost two thirds (1,056) for longer than 6 weeks, which is the maximum time councils are allowed to house families in private B&Bs.[2]
  • Increasing numbers of children and young people are being housed in independent accommodation which can include B&Bs, hostels, and even tents and caravan parks, many of them for long periods.[3] At least 1,173 children were housed in independent accommodation for longer than 6 months in 2017, including 19 children aged 15 and one aged 14.[4]
  • Police use of Tasers against children is increasing, with 871 uses in 2017 and 839 in the first 9 months of 2018. Tasers were used on children as young as 12 and on 4 occasions children under 10. Tasers were used disproportionately against children from BAME backgrounds, with BAME children accounting for 51% of Taser use (68% by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)).[5]
  • The use of spit-hoods is increasing year-on-year as more police forces roll out their use. Spit-hoods were found to be used on children as young as 10, with at least 47 uses on children in 2017 and 114 incidents in the first nine months of 2018, although the true figure is likely to be much higher. Across the whole period requested for 2017 and 2018, BAME children accounted for 34% of spit-hood use nationally and 72% of MPS use.[6]

The report finds little evidence of progress on children’s rights issues over the past year, suggesting that a focus on Brexit is reducing government’s ability to address issues such as rising exclusions from school, mental health problems and child poverty. This means children’s basic needs and development such as their right to feel safe and be protected from abuse, have a roof over their head and play are being side-lined.

The report has been compiled by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), the policy arm of children’s charity Just for Kids Law.

Louise King, Director of CRAE and Director of Policy and Campaigns at Just for Kids Law, said:

“It is a damning indictment of our national priorities that such little progress has been made on addressing children’s rights issues and the UN’s recommendations over the past year. We have sadly taken steps backwards in many areas, for example, local authorities are ignoring both the law and the UN’s warning to ensure that families are not held in B&Bs for longer than 6 weeks and the use of school exclusions continues to increase. It is essential that government and parliamentarians focus attention and resources on addressing the issues outlined in this report and put the safety and wellbeing of children at the centre of policy decisions.”

Enver Solomon, CEO of Just for Kids Law, said:

“We know from our work with children and young people that when agencies fail to uphold their legal rights and entitlements it can have devastating consequences leaving them homeless, suicidal and in crisis.  The wellbeing of the nation’s children should be one of the government’s top priorities yet there is clear evidence that children’s best interests are being overlooked and their rights violated because of political decisions that are damaging children’s lives. The government has consistently stated its ambition to build a country that works for everyone and must now make a new national commitment to make this a reality for all children and young people.”

For further information, contact Jonathan Karstadt: | 07984 095793

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), part of Just for Kids Law, works with over 100 members to promote children’s rights and monitor government implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  2. Just for Kids Law is a UK charity that works with and for children and young people to hold those with power to account and fight for wider reform by providing legal representation and advice, direct advocacy and support, and campaigning to ensure children and young people in the UK have their legal rights and entitlements respected and promoted and their voices heard and valued.
  3. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. 196 countries are party to the convention. The convention was first signed in 1989, and the UK ratified the convention in 1991.
  4. The UK was last examined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2016, see UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2016) Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  5. A spit-hood is a bag made of mesh-like material, with a drawstring to tighten it, which is put over the head. Risk assessments by the police have highlighted the dangers of ‘breathing restriction and asphyxia’ and the Independent Office of Police Conduct are investigating the deaths of several adults following the use of spit-hoods.
  6. CRAE will launch its ‘State of Children's Rights in England 2018’ report on Tuesday 12th March 2019 in Committee Room G in the House of Lords, hosted by Baroness Massey and the Earl of Dundee.
  7. As well as previously unpublished data, the report collates findings from a range of sources to present a comprehensive overview of children’s rights in England.
  8. CRAE has been publishing the annual State of Children’s Rights briefings to monitor UK government compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child since 2003.
  9. Report available from CRAE’s website: from 00.01 12 March 2019.
  10. Case studies of families who were housed in unsuitable B&B accommodation are available on request
  11. The report is made up of eight briefings:
  1. Executive Summary
  2. Children at the Centre - The General Measures of Implementation & General Principles of the CRC
  3. Poverty & Homelessness
  4. Safeguarding Children
  5. Immigration, Asylum & Trafficking
  6. Education, Leisure & Cultural Activities
  7. Health
  8. Policing & Criminal Justice

Download the report here

[1] Council owned accommodation is not subject to The Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2003.

[2] CRAE FOIs to 353 local authorities (December 2018) Almost half (46%) of councils were using such accommodation. The true figure is likely to be much higher as we only received information from 58% of all councils.

[3] This can include children in need, children in care and care leavers.

[4] CRAE FOIs to 353 local authorities (December 2018). The real number is likely to be far higher as only a quarter of councils responded that they held this information.

[5] Based on 29 police force responses between 20 September 2018-28 November 2018 to FOI requests sent out by CRAE.

[6] Based on CRAE FOIs responses from 30 police forces.