Thursday, 2 May 2013

Children's Rights in the UK

Children North East is a member of the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE). This week we received their annual 'State of Children's Rights In England' report. The UK is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and as such our government is required to report every 5 years to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about progress to fully implement the Convention. The government will be doing this in 2013 so the CRAE annual report is a good indication of what should be in it.

Of the 118 UN recommendations about children's rights in England CRAE conclude there has been progress on 30, steps backwards on 37 and the remaining 51 remain the same as previous years. Among the headlines are:

  • Our govenment does not routinely fulfill its commitment to give consideration to children's rights when making new legislation
  • But the Children's Commissioner for England has been given a new remit to promote and protect the rights of children
  • Draft legislation to reform provision for children with special educational needs has been broadly welcomed
  • The Health and Social Care Act 2012 creates duties to reduce health inequalities (at present a boy born in Kensington & Chelsea has a life expectancy of 85.1 years, a boy born in Blackpool can expect to live 73.6 years
  • Child poverty is set to rise yet one quarter of pupils in the south and east of England who are entitled to free school meals do not claim them
  • There are 14,000 pupils who go to school in 'Pupil Referral Units' - places for children who have been excluded or cannot go to ordinary schools for health reasons. Only 1.4% of these children achieve 5 or more good GCSEs compared to 53.4% of all children
  • When asked by Ofsted 50% of primary school children and 38% of secondary school pupils said they had been bullied in their current school
Early in April UNICEF published their UK report card based on comparisons of Child wellbeing in rich countries which received some press attention. It compares child wellbeing in 29 of the worlds most advanced economies. In summary it says:

'This report puts the UK in 16th position, below Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Portugal.

Worrying findings include high rates of teenage pregnancy, and high numbers of young people out of education, employment and training. The UK has one of the highest alcohol abuse rates among 11-15 year olds, and was placed in the bottom third of the infant mortality league table.

Although the Report Card shows the UK moved up the league table in overall well being, since 2010 the downgrading of youth policy and cuts to local government services are having a profound negative effect on young people age 15-19.'

The point about these two reports is vigilance, we cannot afford to be complacent about children's rights in the UK, there is still a long way to go.

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