Human rights obligations and policy supporting children and families

Clem Henricson and Andrew Bainham

Child and family policy in Britain is at odds with the
government’s international human rights commitments, says this
report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), both parents and
children have rights but these have to be balanced.

Children have the right to have a say over issues that affect them
under international rights conventions. But in Britain children’s
welfare, parents’ rather than children’s rights have dominated
policy. In some areas such as education, children have little say.
They have no right to be heard on, for example, choice of school,
attendance, withdrawal from sex or religious education or on
disciplinary matters.

Criminal justice policy risks breaching both children’s and
parents’ human rights, says the report. At 10, the age of criminal
responsibility in England and Wales is “too low”. Meanwhile
parenting orders make parents responsible for controlling their
children’s behaviour up to the age of 16, ignoring the independence
of young people and “threatening to criminalise parents for their
children’s behaviour”.

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