The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued its verdict on the UK’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Committee expresses serious concern about the deleterious impact of fiscal policies on children and the high rate of child poverty in the UK, and says children who are victims or witnesses of crime should not be forced to appear in court for cross-examination. The UK Government is told to prohibit corporal punishment in the family, “as a matter of priority”.
Scores of other recommendations concern the rights of children living in institutions, including (listed in the order they appear in the Committee’s report):
- Children’s Commissioners across the UK should be empowered to investigate cases where a child’s rights have been violated
- The introduction of automatic, independent and public reviews of unexpected deaths or serious injuries occurring in custody, care and mental health care institutions
- Ensuring children’s views are given due weight by all professionals working with them
- Abolition of restraint for disciplinary purposes in all institutions
- Prohibition of restraint techniques that deliberately aim to inflict pain on children
- Restraint authorised only to prevent harm to the child or others, and as a last resort
- Regular collection and publication of restraint data across all settings
- Extension of 1933 child cruelty law so it protects 16 and 17 year-olds too
- Wherever possible, placements for children to be chosen on the basis that they will facilitate contact with biological parents and siblings
- Provide sufficient suppport for care leavers – accommodation, employment and further education are specifically mentioned
- Inclusive education to be given priority over the placement of children in specialised institutions
- Expedite the prohibition of placement of children with mental health needs in adult psychiatric wards or police stations
- Ensure age-appropriate mental health services and facilities
- Review mental health legislation to ensure that both the best interests and the views of the child are taken duly into account in cases of mental health treatment of children below the age of 16, in particular with regard to hospital admission and treatment without consent
- Abolish the use of isolation rooms in educational settings
- Make education about children’s rights mandatory
- Establish statutory independent guardians for all unaccompanied and separated children
- End the detention of asylum-seeking children and migrants
- Abolish the mandatory life imprisonment sentence for offences committed by children
- Establish the statutory principle that detention should be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time, and ensure that detention is not used discriminatorily against certain groups of children
- Ensure that detained children are always separated from adults
- Immediately remove all children from solitary confinement, prohibit the use of solitary confinement in all circumstances, and regularly inspect the use of segregation and isolation in child detention facilities
- Consider raising the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years
- Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure, which would allow children who have suffered rights violations to complain to the UN Committee after other mechanisms are exhausted. Significantly for children in institutions, this procedure also permits third-party complaints: an important safeguard for those who fear victimisation.
Article 39 submitted a report to the UN Committee last year, and we contributed to the comprehensive England-wide non-governmental organisation report co-ordinated by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.