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State of Children’s Rights in England

Review of Government action on United Nations’ recommendations for strengthening children’s rights in the UK

In 2013, the Government will be preparing its next report for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The reporting process should be the Government’s opportunity to show that it has responded to the Committee’s last set of concluding observations, and to demonstrate that, in the UK, children’s rights are fully protected. This might have been possible had the Government spent the last four years making changes to those laws and policies which the Committee identified in 2008 as violating children’s rights, but as this report shows, in far too many areas children’s rights continue to be breached.

It is clear that there has been progress in some areas. Most significantly, proposed reforms to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner will give it greater independence and a rights-based mandate, which should allow it to act as a strong champion for children’s rights. There have been many statements (though no legislation) around the Government’s commitment to children’s participation rights. Despite problems with the detail of the draft legislation, there are some welcome proposals in relation to provision for children and young people with special education needs. The Government has certainly expressed a strong commitment to improving outcomes for looked after children and in relation to adoption and family justice (though there are concerns that in some respects these prioritise the rights of parents over the best interests of the child).

But there are real threats elsewhere.