The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has issued its concluding observations following its first review of the UK.
The 17-page report documents major breaches in the UK’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which we ratified in June 2009. The international treaty sets out the rights of disabled children and adults, which are complementary and additional to other treaties such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Several major areas of concern relate to the rights of disabled children and young people living in institutional settings, with the UN Committee urging:
- Support to parents so that disabled children can enjoy their right to family life, and to reduce the numbers of children living away from home. Connected to this, the UK is urged to tackle the disproportionate levels of poverty among families with disabled children
- A comprehensive strategy on inclusive education, in line with the human rights model of disability
- Action to combat prejudice and discrimination disabled children endure through bullying and hate crime
- The end of restraint related to disability and segregation and isolation in all settings
- Action to prevent the use of restraint on disabled children and young people
- Financial support to organisations run by and for disabled children to, among other things, enable them to actively monitor the implementation of the human rights treaty.
Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:
“The UN body on disability rights has issued a devastating critique of the myriad of ways in which disabled children and young people are held back, excluded and punished. We know, for example, that children who have learning disabilities and difficulties disproportionately end up in prison where physical restraint and segregation are typically the automatic response for dealing with their profound distress and anxiety. With the UK due to submit a report within 12 months on the steps it has taken to implement the UN body’s recommendations, the Government must act quickly to remedy these grave human rights violations.”
Download the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ concluding observations here.
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.
Read the concluding observations here.
UK law must set limits on how long an individual can be held in immigration detention, says the UN Human Rights Committee.
The UN body of experts monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose rights were drawn from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights established after the Second World War.
There is currently no upper limit on the time a child or an adult is held in immigration detention in the UK.
Latest statistics published by the government show 121 children entered immigration detention in the year ending March 2015. Of the 43 children leaving detention in the first three months of 2015:
- 29 had been held for less than 4 days
- 11 were held for between 4 and 7 days
- 3 were held for between 15 and 28 days.
The UN Committee also urged the UK to increase the age of criminal responsbility, which is currently 10 in England and Wales. Such a move would reduce the use of imprisonment, since welfare rather than criminal justice agencies would be required to respond to the needs of children at a much earlier stage.
Consistent with successive recommendations from other human rights bodies, at home and abroad, the UK Government was also told to give children the same protection from assault as adults.
Read the UN report here.