The UK signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and has had to submit to the UN’s searching five-yearly reviews of this country’s progress since. The resulting report is usually a fairly humiliating indictment of the UK’s record on children’s rights and, if the contribution to the review process made this week by the children’s commissioners is anything to go by, the next one will be no exception.
There have been partial successes since the last UN report was published in 2002, not least the creation of commissioner posts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to join the trailblazing position in Wales. Doubts remain about whether they are sufficiently independent, although the commissioners’ no-holds-barred critique suggests that they can take the government on if they want to.
More worrying is UK performance against two of the convention’s four core principles: non-discrimination and devotion to the best interests of the child. On youth justice, asylum-seeking children and child poverty the four governments are variously judged by the commissioners to have failed. More children are being criminalised, the asylum system is shot through with injustices and breaches of the UN convention, and nearly one in three children still lives in relative poverty.
We may have signed up to the convention, but we have not implemented it.
➔ See p10