Today is World’s Children’s Day, a chance to celebrate children across the country and to raise awareness about the importance of upholding children’s rights. We should all take this moment to reflect on how we are upholding children’s rights and why it is paramount that we do so.
Children themselves recognise the need for the government and adults to be aware of their rights:
‘The fact that some adults don’t believe in children’s rights, and we have those rights, so we need the Government to speak about rights for kids so that we have a life of some sort of freedom. And that we have respect for adults so adults should have at least some respect for kids around the world’ – Boy, 10, The Big Ask.
As Children’s Commissioner for England, I have a statutory duty set out in the Children Act 2004 to promote and protect the rights of all children, with particular regard to children who are living away from home or receiving social care services. Last year I gave evidence to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child for their examination of the UK’s record on children’s rights as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This process reminded me of the some of the fundamental rights of children.
First, right to be heard (Article 12). All children have the right to be listened to and taken seriously. For me the right to be heard means that every child has the right to be listened to and taken seriously. When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think about it and be listened to.
I recently launched The Big Ambition, a survey for children and young people which aims to hear what they want to change in the lead up to the General Election. You can have your say here. Children have the right for their views to be respected and taken into consideration in relation to what happens to them at home, at school, and in their community. In all my work, children’s voice is at the centre.
Second, the right to education (Article 28). All children should be supported to access the right education for them and their needs. This is why I have made it my mission to make sure every child is in school, every day, ready to learn. I have looked at the barriers to attendance in multiple forms and continue to play a central role in the Government’s Attendance Action Alliance.
Third, the non-discrimination Article 2. All children have the right to access equal opportunities. The right to non-discrimination means that all children have the right to access equal opportunities and have all of their rights upheld. Children should not be disadvantaged because of their skin colour, sex or religion, if they speak another language, have special educational needs or a disability (SEND), or are rich or poor. Across the various strands of my work, children have consistently said that they believe all children should be treated fairly, without judgement or discrimination.
The children I speak to across the country tell me they want to live in a fair and caring society.
As one boy told the CCo: ‘You can’t help what you are born. Everyone should be treated fairly’ – Boy, 11, The Big Ask.
Today as we celebrate children’s rights, let’s all consider the role we can play to uphold their rights and support every child to access the care and love they need to thrive.