COVID-19: Together calls on MSPs to ensure children’s human rights are protected in crisis response

Date: 9th April 2020
Category: General principles


Together’s briefing acknowledged the unprecedented challenges for Scotland, the UK and wider world, but urged decision-makers to consider the human rights implications of emergency measures and the need to protect vulnerable children.

The briefing was issued shortly after the UK Coronavirus Act was passed, and just as MSPs prepared to debate the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill on 1st April 2020. The Scottish Bill completed all three stages on 1st April, receiving Royal Assent several days later. Now the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, it introduces new rules  mainly on housing and justice. Certain provisions are particularly significant for children and their families. These include that the Act:

  • Defines children as people under 16 years old, in conflict with the definition under the UNCRC that a child is anyone under 18 years old.
  • Introduces changes to the Children’s Hearings System, including reducing the number of Panel members required; changes to children’s participation; extending timescales for emergency placements, Child Assessment Orders and Child Protection Orders; and use of virtual hearings.
  • Introduces measures to protect tenants from eviction by increasing notice periods to six months

Together’s briefing included three key calls to action for decision-makers at UK and Scottish level:

  • Take a child-rights approach to respond to the crisis, underpinned by child rights impact assessments, rights-based budgeting, monitoring and review.
  • Ensure that the definition of a child includes all those under the age of 18 - in line with the UNCRC
  • Take steps to mitigate the disproportionate impact of emergency measures on the rights of particularly vulnerable groups of children (including children living in poverty, young carers, children deprived of their liberty, children with disabilities and/or other additional support needs, care experienced, and children living with domestic violence)

We would like to thank our members who provided valuable information to support the preparation of the briefing. Together will continue to monitor the impact of the crisis on children, young people and their families and will be responding to the JCHR Inquiry into the human rights implications of the response. Please get in touch with if you would like to get involved in this work.

Read Together's briefing for MSPs here.