Care experienced children and young people are among those who will have the opportunity to give their opinions on new legislation which would incorporate an international human rights treaty into Scots law – in a Zoom chat with MSPs.
Virtual calls hosted by children’s rights organisations will allow children and young people from a diverse range of groups across Scotland to meet privately with members of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, which is seeking views on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.
Their comments will form part of the evidence to the committee in its scrutiny of the legislation, which would allow children and young people to take public bodies to court for breaches of their rights.
The Bill legally obliges public authorities – including Scottish Ministers – to respect children’s rights, placing them under a duty not to act incompatibly with the UN Convention, while Ministers will also be required to make a Children’s Rights Scheme to set out how they will comply with the duty.
Children and representatives acting on their behalf will be able to challenge public authorities in court for infringing their rights, and the new legislation will allow the courts to strike down legislation that is incompatible with any UNCRC requirements.
The Bill also provides new powers to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner in Scotland (CYPCS) to litigate in the public interest, which would enable the Commissioner to take cases to court on behalf of children and provide advice to courts about the Convention.
Committee Convener, Ruth Maguire MSP, said:
“This legislation has the potential to transform the way public bodies approach the needs and rights of children in Scotland. It is therefore vitally important that we hear from those children who, by reason of ethnicity, gender, religion or disability, are most likely to face discrimination and who may not normally have an opportunity to express their views.
“Online meetings facilitated by organisations that work with care experienced children, young people within the criminal justice system, children with disabilities or other additional support needs, as well as young LGBT people and BAME groups, will allow members of the committee to learn more about the experiences of children and young people and the issues they have to deal with in their daily lives.
“We want to know what barriers they face and what they think should be done to make sure their rights are respected.”
A facilitator’s pack developed with children’s organisations provides groups with activities to help them respond to the consultation. Education resources are available for primary and secondary schools to explain the Bill and Committee process and invite pupils to take part in the consultation. British Sign Language users will also be able to contribute to the Committee’s evidence-gathering by sending in videos with their views.
The closing date for responses to the call for views is midnight on 20 November 2020, which is Universal Children’s Day, marking the day on which the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1959.
The private virtual calls will be hosted by: Who Cares? Scotland; Aberlour; Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice; Scottish Commission for Learning Disability; LGBT Youth Scotland; and Intercultural Youth Scotland.
Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) is also hosting virtual calls with the following organisations: The Children’s Parliament; Licketyspit; Children in Scotland; Scottish Youth Parliament; Youth Link Scotland; Barnardo’s Scotland; and Carers Trust Scotland.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was adopted by the General Assembly of the 1989 and ratified by the UK Government in 1991, since then the UK has been obliged under international law to give effect to the rights set out in the UNCRC. It sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children are entitled to and is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.
The UK has also signed two out of three optional protocols: (1) on the involvement of children in armed conflict; and (2) on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The third optional protocol, which allows complaints to be made to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, has not yet been signed by the UK. While the UK is bound by the UNCRC in international law, because the UNCRC has not been incorporated into domestic law, those rights are not part of the law which can be enforced directly in Scottish courts.
The rights in the UNCRC, which consists of 54 articles, are guaranteed to every child whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status.
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