Barriers and solutions to using a child rights approach in policy

Date: 21st August 2017
Category: General measures of implementation

This briefing is part of a three-year project to build the capacity of the voluntary sector to use children's rights arguments in their policy and public affairs work.

It explores the barriers and solutions to using children's rights approaches. It is based on interviews and a roundtable with human and children's rights experts from NGOs across the UK and Europe, as well as individuals from large children's charities and the homelessness and mental health sectors. The findings were then tested at a roundtable event with 22 individuals. It is also based on CRAE's experience of working in this field since 1991.

CRAE found that only organisations consisting of children's rights experts who had children's rights as part of their core ethos or aims were currently using an explicit children's rights approach to policy.

Interviewees told the researchers that a clear benefit of a children's rights approach was being able to use human rights to frame children's rights. They also highlighted that the CRC itself was a uniquely powerful tool as it sets out a binding, universal minimum standard and framework for accountability for how children should be protected and treated. In addition, the ECHR and other human rights treaties were not developed with children specifically in mind. Experts outlined the importance of the CRC as 'a whole continuum of rights for children' that looks at the child holistically along their developmental journey to adulthood.

When asked about the barriers to using children's rights approaches, the most common complaint from participants was that the CRC is too legalistic and technical. This was combined with a lack of understanding of the CRC, its surrounding procedures and what a children's rights approach entailed.

The fact that the CRC is not incorporated into UK law was also highlighted as a key barrier to using the CRC as a lobbying tool. However, the biggest barrier to taking a children's or human rights approach was seen to be the pervasive anti-human rights agenda and narrative, common amongst some politicians and media, exacerbated by current anti-international feeling.

The briefing also contains 19 recommendations on how organisations and the Government could embed a children's rights approach to policy making, as well as two examples of how to take a children's rights approach to policy.

Now that CRAE have developed a deeper understanding of the reasons why people do and don't use children's rights arguments as a policy tool, the next two years of this project will apply these findings to help build the capacity of the mental health and homelessness sectors to use children's rights approaches in their policy work.

Hard copies of the briefing are also available. Please email to order copies.