Joint Committee On Human Rights Tenth Report


ANNEX 4: CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE'S UNIT: BRIEFING ON THE CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS OF THE UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, OCTOBER 2002

OVERALL

The UK Government is fully committed to the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Government has made strenuous efforts to put the interests of children and young people at the heart of government, and will continue to work towards this aim.

In recent years, we have made significant progress to protect and promote the wellbeing of children and young people and we welcome the recognition by the UN Committee of the Steps we have taken. But we recognise that there is still more work that needs to be done.

We will consider the Committee's Concluding Observations carefully as we develop our overarching strategy for children and young people.

JUVENILE JUSTICE

The Government has made the reform of the youth justice system central to its policy agenda. That includes ensuring the system addresses the particular challenges of dealing with children and young people. Reducing and preventing youth crime and delinquency, and reforming the youth justice system are a major part of the Government's effort to build safer communities and tackle social exclusion. It also wants to prevent young people offending in the first place. The programmes it has introduced begin a long way before contact with the youth justice system. They work with the Government's wider efforts to combat social exclusion.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 established preventing offending as the principal aim of the youth justice system and placed a statutory duty on all those working in the youth justice system to have regard to that aim.

There is a downward trend in male juvenile offenders being held in custody with over 18s. A very small number of girls are held in over 18 prison service accommodation and we are looking to address this.

CHILDREN'S COMMISSIONER

There are already a range of mechanisms in place to promote and protect children's interests in England and we need to be convinced that any new structures will make a real difference to the lives of children & young people. That's why we are monitoring closely developments in the Devolved Administrations to see what lessons their experiences have for us.

SMACKING

The Government is absolutely opposed to violence and abuse against children. The law only allows what is reasonable in terms of the physical punishment of children—it does not permit child abuse. We recognise that parenting can be difficult, but we must avoid heavy-handed intrusion into family life. The Convention refers to the protection of children from physical violence and maltreatment. The Government is satisfied that UK law is in line with these provisions.

We believe our policy reflects common sense views of the vast majority of people. It is not only wrong but dangerous to link smacking and child abuse deaths. It diverts attention from those children most at risk.

We have recently announced preventive measures to be put in place next year to support children at risk by local services joining up and sharing information.

CHILD POVERTY

We agree that the levels of child poverty in the UK are unacceptable. That's why the Prime Minister made his central commitment to abolish child poverty in a generation. And we are making progress. Not on every front, but in important ways. We are beginning to reverse the legacy we found when we came to office of one of the worst records of child poverty in the industrialised world.

Today a quarter of a million fewer children are growing up in homes where no one has a job than in 1997

1.4 million fewer children are living in absolute poverty than in 1996/97

Over half a million fewer children are living in relative poverty than in 1996/7

We have ensured record increases in Child Benefit, up over 25% in real terms since 1997

As a result of personal tax and employment measures all families with children are on average £1,200 a year better off. All increases are targeted with the result that families in the poorest 20% are on average £2,400 a year better off.

Significantly more children are achieving level 4 in Key Stage 2 tests in literacy and numeracy

Teenage pregnancy is down and there are more teenage mothers in education, training or work—up from 16% in 1997 to 33% in 2001.

ASYLUM SEEKERS

The interests of asylum seeking children and young people are fully respected. The basic human rights of children are protected under the Human Rights Act, which applies to the protection of all children in the UK without exception.

The Government remains of the opinion that the Reservation is justified in the interests of effective immigration control. However, this does not prevent the UK from having regard to the Convention in its care and treatment of children. Moreover, the basic human rights of children are protected under the Human Rights Act, which applies to all children in the UK without exception.

It does not think that, given its commitment to the welfare of children, having the Reservation should lead to neglect of their care and welfare. It considers that, notwithstanding the Reservation, there are sufficient social and legal mechanisms in place to ensure that children receive a generous level of protection and care whilst they are in the UK.

ARMED CONFLICT

The UK is fully committed to the Convention's provisions on Child Soldiers. Indeed, we intend to ratify the Convention's Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The ratification process will begin in November 2002.


 
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