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.

3 thoughts on “Children’s rights in Wales

  1. Some of our Welsh children have rights in line with UNCRC and others don’t of course:-

    Article 2
    Non-discrimination. All rights apply to all children without exception. It is the State’s obligation to
    protect children from any form of discrimination and to take positive action to promote their rights.
    Article 3
    Best interests of the child. All actions concerning the child shall take full account of his or her
    best interests.

    In light of the facts discussed at length here:-

    The Labour government should consider its legislation on the provision of Welsh Medium schools. Whilst all Local Authorities are under a duty to survey parental preference with regard to a desire for Welsh Medium schooling for children, including a question on whether they would use such a school if it were within a 2 mile travel distance, there is no such responsibility put on LAs to survey for English medium school provision.

    The result is that counties such as Conwy, Anglesey, Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire have no requirement to make parental preference surveys to see if parents would like their child to have the opportunity of English medium primary school provision within 2 miles of their homes.

    In the above counties all except Gwynedd have the majority of their pupils coming from homes where Welsh is not spoken yet they are thrown into Welsh immersion schools at age 4 or 5 whether they want it or not. The result is that those pupils are disadvantaged and often under achieve throughout their school life.

    The Welsh Government is using the protection that it can give to a minority language to override its duty under Human rights provision to not discriminate against any group of children in its measures or legislation. The Convention actually makes it clear that the government cannot use its duty under one “right” to remove its duty under another right.

    I look forward to Lesley Griffiths vigorously championing the rights of English L1 parents and children to be consulted on their preference of school medium in the Welsh speaking areas of Wales. The remedy is simple: ALL children should have the right to be consulted on whether they wish to be schooled in an environment where their first language is used and respected. NO child should be forbidden or discouraged from using their first or chosen language in schools or their environment.

    The government’s requirement to survey parental preference must extend to ALL LAs and a specific English medium option must be given.

  2. Surely one of the most fundamental of rights is the right not to be hit by others. If the Minister and her Government “want a Wales where Children’s Rights are a reality for each and every child” when are they going to reform the law so that children have the same legal protection from assault as we enjoy as adults ? The Welsh Government has the power to change the law on this issue yet it has deliberately avoided doing so. Until it addresses this most basic of human rights the Welsh Government will lack credibility and integrity in promoting its children’s rights agenda. It has the opportunity to reform the law via its current domestic violence Bill passing through the Assembly. Allow a free conscience vote during Stage 3 of the Bill and let the Assembly decide. Generations of Welsh children will thank them for it.

  3. It would have been interesting to know what practical impact the new duty has actually had on Lesley Griffiths’ portfolio rather than the usual list of programmes and investments. What impact did ‘due regard’ to Article 12 of the UNCRC have, for example, on funding decisions with regard to the infrastructure for children’s participation that already existed? How does the Minister and Cabinet incorporate the duty, which cannot be delegated, in the development of new policy and legislation and working across portfolios?

    Is there a process of positively assessing Bills, policies and programmes to look for the opportunities they offer to promote and safeguard the human rights of children? And, perhaps most obviously, if there is a commitment to do ‘everything within my powers’ to ensure that children’s rights are a reality for each and every child in Wales, why has this government gone back on the explicit promise to the UN Committee and to children to give them equal protection under the law on assault in accordance with Article 19? This is an obligation under international law, in line with the Welsh Labour manifesto commitment at the last election to fully implement the Rights Measure, and the Assembly has voted in favour more than once; yet children are being treated by Welsh Government as if they are lesser beings with fewer human rights. You’ve got the powers. It’s time to do the right thing and let the Assembly legislate.

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