Are we protecting children’s rights in the UK? Keith Clements, Policy Officer at NCB, explains why these are key to ensuring good health for all children.
The current proposals to abolish the Human Rights Act have brought the idea of rights back to the political fore. A rights-based approach helps us and policy makers focus on making sure that all children can expect the same basic protection, support and quality of life - no matter what their needs and regardless of any political barriers we might perceive as preventing this from being achieved
Later this year, the fifth periodic review on the UK’s adherence to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) will take place. A group of charities, led by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) have compiled a voluntary sector response to what the Government submitted to this review, to give our side of the story. One of the areas we looked at was children’s health.
Childhood mortality is declining, but UK is still amongst the worst performing in Western Europe, and those that do die young are more likely to come from a poor background. Some approaches to inequality may place the blame on the decisions of parents and discourage any supportive intervention from the state and public services. Such approaches are not compatible with the fact that all children, no matter what their background, have the same right to the highest attainable health, and our response to them must not be coy in reflecting this.
The abuse at Winterbourne View, a residential hospital for people with learning disabilities, uncovered in 2011, was truly shocking. It also raised an important question – why were so many people, including children, stuck in such settings, so far from home, in the first place?
Article 23 of the Convention makes reference to the right of the disabled child to special care, and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has said it expects children to receive care as close to home as possible. This must be part of our arsenal in holding decision makers to account on the provision of support for children with learning disabilities in their own neighbourhood.
Children and young people’s needs are thankfully being considered as part a recent increased political focus on mental health more generally. Since May, Government has taken encouraging steps, starting to implement the proposals of the taskforce on children and you people’s mental health, which published its report in March.
There is a long way to go and this must remain an ongoing priority. In this case and in others, we may hear arguments that decisions are ‘down to local clinicians’, squabbles about which local agencies budget should foot the bill, or the competing pressures put on health services by an ageing population. We must remember that this does not absolve the UK of the commitments it has signed up to under the UNCRC.