Our 2017 State of Childrens Rights report is now live

Date: 12th December 2017
Category: Scotland-specific monitoring and reporting

Together's 2017 State of Children's Rights in Scotland report sets out promising rights-based practice taken by Scotland's public bodies.

The report outlines good practice through a wide range of case studies across the areas of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The report is a tool for public bodies to take forward children's rights. An online link to the report is now available.

Overview of Together's 2017 report

The State of Children's Rights report 2017 sets out promising child rights-based practice taken by public bodies across Scotland. Specifically, it consists of a wide range of case studies from our members that illustrate how a rights-based approach can make a significant difference to children and young people's lives and improve the quality and effectiveness of public services. The report should act as an inspirational and encouraging tool for public bodies to draw from when exploring how to embed children and young people's rights into their own policy and practice.

The report is timely, as the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 establishes duties on Scottish Ministers and public bodies to contribute toward the realisation of children and young people's rights. These duties include one placed on a range of public bodies - including local authorities and health boards - to report every three years on the steps taken to further children and young people's rights. The duty commenced in April 2017 and the first reports are to be published in 2020.

Taking a rights-based approach will help public bodies to meet this new duty. A children's rights-based approach is a principled and practical framework for working with children and young people, grounded in the UNCRC and other international human rights conventions. It is about placing the UNCRC at the heart of planning and service delivery and integrating children and young people's rights into every aspect of decision-making, policy and practice. If implemented well, the duty offers a significant opportunity to embed children and young people's rights into the delivery of public services.

To support public bodies in fulfilling the new duty, Scottish Ministers have published non-statutory guidance. This is the Guidance on Part 1, Section 2 (Duties of Public Authorities in relation to the UNCRC) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. It includes a Framework for Children's Rights Reporting which takes a child rights-based approach using the UNCRC 'cluster areas', accompanied by 'reflective statements'. The State of Children's Rights report 2017 uses this framework to showcase promising rights-based practice within education, health, social work and juvenile justice. The report highlights how involving children and young people in planning and evaluation can help to improve and enhance local services.

Public bodies can also draw from the expertise of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The UN Committee is a group of experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the UNCRC, which regularly reviews and assesses the progress made to realise children and young people's rights across the world. The Committee last reviewed Scotland in 2016, as part of the UK, and made a series of recommendations as to how implementation of the UNCRC could be improved. The recommendations (referred to as 'Concluding Observations') were informed by the views and experiences of children and young people across Scotland, some of whom spoke directly to members of the UN Committee. The State of Children's Rights report 2017 repeatedly refers to these recommendations to highlight to public bodies where further efforts are needed to protect, respect and fulfil children and young people's rights in Scotland.

The Committee also produces a wide range of commentary to guide Governments in their efforts to realise children and young people's rights. This commentary is set out in documents known as 'General Comments' and covers issues such as children's participation, adolescent health, protecting children from violence and abuse and establishing children's best interests. Again, the State of Children's Rights report 2017 refers to these General Comments to enable public bodies to quickly and easily learn more about specific areas of children and young people's rights.

As the UN Committee recognised in its examination, real progress has been made to improve the realisation of children's rights across Scotland. Following on from this, the Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2017-18 included welcome commitments to take forward some of the UN Committee's recommendations, including giving children equal protection from violence, raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old and exploring the option of incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law. However, much more still needs to be done.

Public bodies will play a key role in addressing the many challenges ahead, such as tackling child poverty and the educational attainment gap, and mitigating the impact of austerity and Brexit. To overcome these challenges there needs to be a genuine commitment to taking a rights-based approach among all those working with and for children and young people. This State of Children's Rights report sets out the promising approaches we have already seen, in the hope and expectation that it will inspire similar work across Scotland to ensure the rights of all children and young people are protected, respected and fulfilled, at all times.

Evidence-gathering for the report

The report was compiled and produced by Together following wide consultation with our members across Scotland. As in previous years, the research process has been rigorous, starting with a review of Children Services Plans, produced by local authorities as part of the new Part 3 duties included in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. This research identified areas for further desk research, through which we drew from evidence submitted throughout the year by our membership, published in our online resource library and e-newsletter. Further consultation took place throughout the summer through our annual State of Children's Rights survey, and with specific member organisations and support from a range of public bodies who helped to draft and edit the final report.