Achieving Rights for Children in the UK

As a social work educator with a great passion for the promotion of rights for children, the recent report by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children in the UK was disheartening and highlighted a number of areas which need to be improved if children in the UK are to enjoy the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Praise and Criticism

The UK was commended for its increase in spending on children and issues affecting them, its plans to strengthen discrimination legislation through the further legislation, for the implementation of the Every Child Matters agenda and the five outcomes for all children in England and Wales, as well as for the Childcare Act 2006, and for its focus on young children.

On a less positive note, the report highlighted the ongoing failure by statutory and non-statutory bodies to protect the rights of children from Roma and travelling communities, migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children and children from lesbian, gay and transgendered backgrounds, to be free from discrimination.

The report also recommended a review of television programmes which exploit children and blamed the media for the further exploitation of children through broadcasts.

Recommendations Require Action.

For this purposes of this article, the author is concerned with the Committee’s recommendations around dissemination, training and awareness-raising for parents, adults, professionals and children in respect of the UNCRC and related children’s legislation.

The report commended the UK Government for making some attempt at training professionals in human and children’s rights provisions. I, however, feel that this training is inadequate and knowledge about these provisions is low. The question then is, how should awareness be raised and information disseminated to ensure that the information reaches all or most people about the rights of children.

The media – television, radio and newspapers – could be used to highlight the provisions of the UNCRC 1989 and Human Rights Act 1998. Talk shows could be a useful vehicle for knowledge and information dissemination.

Public areas such as bus stops, canteens, restaurants, local authority buildings and charities could publicise this information in various languages to ensure that the content of the UNCRC reaches significant numbers of people.

Schools, nurseries, childminders, playgroups and child health clinics should also become actively involved in sharing and encouraging learning about what children’s rights means and the importance of ensuring that children’s views are respected and listened to. A specific recommendation contained within this report is that UK schools incorporate the UNCRC within the curriculum.

Faith-based organisations, in the author’s view, have a duty to promote the understanding and respect for children as individuals and so should be involved in disseminating the provisions of the UNCRC and other rights-based policies and legislation.

Must Do Better.

The UK’s next report to this Committee is due in January 2014. It would be useful if professionals working with children and young people and educators involved in the training of all levels of childcare professionals could reflect on the issues raised in this report, and begin to identify how individual and corporate practices could lead to a more favourable outcome for children and how this could improve the international perception of the state of children’s rights in the United Kingdom.

The full UN report can be accessed at

Prospera Tedam is Course Leader on the BA Social Work course at the University of Northampton.

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