90 charities warn that children’s rights have deteriorated in England

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England highlights key concerns for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child investigation in the UK.

In a new report, 90 children’s charities from across England warn that a number of critical children’s rights issues must be “urgently addressed” by the UK Government to prevent worsening impacts on the most vulnerable children.

The report marks the start of the UK’s examination under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Led by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), it sets out civil society’s top concerns for the UN to investigate and reveals that children’s rights have regressed in many areas since the UN’s last examination in 2016. It also highlights that the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has not prioritised children’s rights and their voices in vital policy and legislative decisions.

Although it notes some progress, the report concludes that children’s rights remain worryingly low on the political agenda in England. Scotland is soon to directly incorporate the CRC into domestic law, but the UK Government has refused to do so. It also outlines that children’s access to justice has been eroded since 2016 and, with the Human Rights Act now under threat, the domestic legal framework for protecting children’s human rights is at great risk.

The report also highlights that Black children have continued to suffer persistent discrimination across many aspects of their lives, including being disproportionately represented in school exclusions and in all parts of the criminal justice system. Despite numerous reviews, there is still no cross-government strategy for preventing and addressing systematic racism and race discrimination.

This is added to the fact that inequalities in key children’s health outcomes, such as mortality and obesity, have widened since 2016 for those from poorer and BAME backgrounds. There is no strategy or targets to address this. The educational attainment gap has also widened as Covid-19 exacerbated the issue, with children from disadvantaged and BAME backgrounds falling further behind their peers. Children from these backgrounds are also disproportionately excluded from school and denied an education.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Since the last UNCRC examination in 2016, child poverty has been rising, and as a result of Coronavirus things are likely to get worse for children and their families before they get better.

“Without co-ordinated national action to tackle child poverty in the UK, a generation of children will be deprived of their basic rights to a safe and secure home, an adequate education, and a healthy childhood. This report sets out some of the key areas the UK government should focus on if they are serious about protecting children’s rights in the UK. This starts with taking meaningful action to tackle child poverty.”

The report also notes that, although there have been welcome developments to children’s social care legislation, funding for children’s and youth services has been decimated, whilst the numbers of children needing care or protection are rising, with the pandemic putting additional pressure on services.

The rights of children in the immigration system have also suffered as a result of the Government’s punitive Hostile Environment. There are currently 215,000 undocumented children in the UK who face great barriers to regularising their status.

Dr Carol Homden, Chief Executive of Coram, said: "As this report highlights, the current immigration system is failing many children, including those who have grown up in the UK and have the right to stay and contribute to the country they consider home but are unable to regularise their status.

“With just seven months until the EU settlement scheme deadline, hundreds of thousands of EU national children, including children in care, are also at risk of falling through the gaps and becoming undocumented. The Government needs to ensure that the immigration system recognises the best interests of children, and provide a shorter, affordable and accessible route to permanent status for children and young people."

You can read the full report from the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) at https://bit.ly/3goVw2N (PDF download)

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