Skip to main content

State of Children’s Rights in England 2016: Executive Summary

The UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991. This means that all areas of government and the state; including local government, schools, health services, and criminal justice bodies, must do all they can to fulfil children’s rights. In June 2016 the UK Government was examined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN Committee) on its compliance with the CRC for the first time since 2008. The UN Committee set out a number of concerns and recommendations (Concluding Observations) for change.

CRAE’s State of Children’s Rights 2016 is made up of seven thematic briefings assessing the progress made towards implementing the UN Committee’s recommendations: Children at the Centre: The General Measures of Implementation and General Principles of the CRC; Poverty and Homelessness; Health; Immigration, Asylum and Trafficking; Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities; Safeguarding Children; 8: Policing and Criminal Justice.

This summary gives a flavour of some of the issues covered in each briefing, which highlights areas of improvement and concern since July 2015 when CRAE coordinated the England Civil Society report to the UN Committee as part of the last UK examination. For more detail on each issue, see the individual briefing.

The last 18 months have resulted in changes to the political landscape not seen in recent times. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) in June 2016 casts doubt on the continued enjoyment of many rights and entitlements children currently enjoy due to EU law. Uncertainties around the economy and concerns over rises in the cost of living could also adversely affect struggling families with children.

With the appointment of a new Prime Minister in summer 2016, there was an opportunity for renewed political leadership on how we treat children. Unfortunately, this opportunity was missed. England no longer has a Government Minister with responsibility for the rights of all children and the threat that the political conversation over the coming years will be dominated by Brexit, with little space for issues affecting children, is very real.

Despite some positive progress, especially in relation to children in care and children with mental health needs, our analysis shows that much more needs to be done before children’s rights are fully respected. Time and again children are not central to decision-making. This must change. It’s crucial that the Government uses the State of Children’s Rights 2016, alongside the UN Committee's Concluding Observations, to urgently identify what actions it will take so that all children can have a happy and fulfilling childhood and the best start in life.