The Children’s Rights Alliance for England has accused the government of trampling over children’s human rights.
The organisation, a coalition of more than 320 organisations that campaigns for the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, claimed the government had “torn up” the treaty for juvenile offenders and young asylum-seekers.
Its report, Must Do Better, calls for an immediate cross-government review of children’s law and policy in advance of the examination of the UK by the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child in 2009.
It called the use of nose, rib and thumb distractions, used by staff in the four privately-run child prisons, “government-sanctioned deliberate violence against children in penal custody”. Information obtained by the CRAE under the Freedom of Information Act showed these were used 768 times in secure training centres over the last year resulting in 51 injuries.
Staff in local authority secure children’s homes are forbidden from using this technique.
The report highlighted other areas of particular concern including: the high number of children locked up in the UK each year; the lack of education and exercise given to 15-17-year old boys in young offender institutions; the low age of criminal responsibility; and the number of children issued with antisocial behaviour orders.
The organisation also decried the impact of immigration policy on asylum-seeking children and the government’s refusal to ban parents smacking their children.
Carolyne Willow, CRAE national co-ordinator, said: “The government is rightly telling everyone that works with children to take all action necessary to prevent abuse and that ‘every child matters’. Yet it has authorised deliberate violence against children in custody, it has introduced legislation that could separate asylum-seeking children from their parents, and it has directed courts to name and shame children.
“It has still not established a public inquiry into any child death in custody (there have been 29 since 1990) and it has ignored international and national pressure to stop detaining asylum-seeking families.”
Willow said the Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear that young offenders and asylum-seeking children have the right to special protection.
Must Do Better from www.crae.org.uk