Children’s rights in Wales

Lesley Griffiths discusses a new duty which means children’s rights must be considered in every decision by Ministers.

In November Ministers from across the Welsh Government, along with people around the world, celebrated Universal Children’s Day. 2014’s celebration was particularly special, as it also marked 25 years of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Last year was once again been a prominent year for us in relation to Children’s Rights.  Actor and Unicef Ambassador, Michael Sheen, described 2014 as “a remarkable year for Child Rights in Wales”.

This week on Click on Wales

This week on Click on Wales we’ll be looking at a new measure which means children’s rights must be considered in all decisions, by all Ministers in Wales.

Four Assembly Members will be discussing the impact that this duty has on their portfolio or shadow portfolio.

2014 saw the extension of the duty to have due regard to the UNCRC under our Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure. This means Welsh Ministers must now consider the UNCRC when making all decisions, which means Children’s Rights will be reflected in all our legislation, policies, guidance and decisions right across the Government.

To coincide with this, we also updated our Children’s Rights Scheme which sets out the arrangements we have in place to reflect the extension to the duty.

This Government has a clear vision for children.  We want a Wales where Children’s Rights are a reality for each and every child. As Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty many of the issues which impact on the lives of children and young people, are within my portfolio.

I have prioritised the participation of children and young people in influencing the workings of Government. We are working with the charitable organisation, Children in Wales, to ensure children and young people are able to make their voices heard in Government on the big issues which directly affect them and their families.

As part of this, we recently supported Children in Wales to take 22 young people from across Wales to London to participate in a meeting of the UK Youth Parliament in the House of Commons.

Last year,  I met with the Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler, to discuss opportunities for the Welsh Government and the National Assembly to work together to support active youth participation and engagement in Wales.

I was pleased to hear about the tremendous effort Assembly committees are making to include young people’s voices in their work.  We will continue to work together to enable the voices of the thousands of children and young people in Wales to be heard.

I also welcome the Presiding Officer’s consultation on voting at 16. Everyone is being encouraged to participate in the Wales-wide conversation about lowering the voting age by participating through Twitter – #Vote16Wales.

Whilst we have put Children’s Rights and participation at the heart of everything we do, the true test is always in the impact on services on the ground and the outcomes for children, young people and their families.

In educational attainment, which evidence shows is critical in helping to tackle poverty, we are the only Government in the UK to set a target for closing the attainment gap. Our recent draft Budget agreement also saw an increase in the Pupil Deprivation Grant and an extension of the grant scheme to children under the age of five.

We are working hard to tackle the causes and effects of child poverty and improve the lives of children and young people in low income households. We are investing in our flagship Flying Start programme which aims to give children a better start in life.

Flying Start is a key element of our tackling child poverty agenda. The programme is improving the life chances of children living in some of Wales’ most disadvantaged communities. This is why I aim to double the number of children benefitting from 18,000 to 36,000 by 2016, with £282.9 million in investment to fund the expansion. In the longer term this will see young people being less disadvantaged simply because of where they grow up.

In December, I launched our revised Child Poverty Strategy which reaffirms our ambition of eradicating child poverty by 2020. I recognise this ambition is extremely challenging, particularly due to the impact of the UK Government’s welfare reform and increasing cuts to our budget. However, maintaining this ambition sends a strong message – child poverty is neither acceptable nor inevitable and we remain fully committed to doing all we can to eradicate it.

I have allocated over £1.8million over three years to support play opportunities as I strongly believe high quality play opportunities for all children can contribute to mitigating the negative effects of poverty on children’s lives and support their physical and social development.

At the heart of all we do to support children,  is the desire for them to have a childhood free from poverty, worry and hardship, where they are able to grow, develop and enjoy life.

I remain committed to doing everything within my powers to improve the life chances of children and young people in Wales and ensuring their rights are a reality.

Lesley Griffiths is the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, and Labour Assembly Member for Wrexham.

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