Part 1 and Part 3 duties on Public Bodies have commenced
The commencement of Part 1 (duties of public authorities in relation to the UNCRC) and the reporting period for Part 3 (Children's Services Planning) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 both took effect from 1 April 2017.
Part 1, section 2 (Duties of public authorities in relation to the UNCRC)
Part 1, section 2, of the 2014 Act places a duty on specified public authorities, including all local authorities and health boards, to report every 3 years on the steps they have taken in that period to secure better or further effect of the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The first report is due as soon as practicable after 31 March 2020.
The public authorities subject to these new duties are listed in schedule 1 to the Act. Non-statutory guidance to support implementation can be accessed here. The non-statutory guidance to support implementation of Part 1 encourages a child-rights based approach, which places children and young people at the centre of policy development, delivery and evaluation.
Part 3 (Children's Services Planning)
Part 3 of the Act places a duty on each local authority and the relevant health board to jointly prepare a children's services plan for the area of the local authority covering a 3-year period. A range of other relevant local and national bodies are expected to be either consulted with, or obliged to participate, at various stages of the development of the plan. It also requires the local authority and relevant health board to jointly publish an annual report detailing how the provision of children's services and related services in that area have been provided in accordance with the plan.
Statutory guidance on Part 3 provides local authorities and health boards, working in partnership with other public bodies and organisations, with information and advice about how they should exercise the functions conferred by Part 3.
All local authorities and relevant health boards are required to have their children's services plan for the first three-year period (1 April 2017 - 31 March 2020) in place on 1 April 2017.
As set out in Part 3 (section 10) of the Act, a copy of the children's services plans must be sent to the Scottish Ministers as well as to each of the other service providers. In addition, the children's services plans must be published in such manner as the local authority and relevant health board consider appropriate.
Together's statement on the new duties under the 2014 Act
The 2014 Act requires Scottish Ministers to give due consideration to ways in which the UNCRC can be better implemented in Scotland. Whilst this is a welcome step, it does not 'ensure that the principles and provisions of the Convention are directly applicable and justiciable'. The 2014 Act leaves it to Ministerial discretion as to whether it is considered 'appropriate' to further the UNCRC. Reporting duties on public bodies and Ministers under Part 1 of the 2014 Act do provide a welcome and useful opportunity to mainstream children's rights into decision-making, but fall short of requiring any action to implement the UNCRC. Children's organisations continue to advocate for the full incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law. However, if implemented well, the duties offer a significant opportunity to embed children's rights into the delivery of public services.
Sign up to our e-Newsletter
Get the very latest on children’s rights by following us on Twitter.