Youth@CLC during a Pandemic

05 Jan 2021

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Youth@CLC, youth advisory panel of the Children’s Law Centre, continued essential work on REE Rights Responder and REE Live Chat alongside legal experts within CLC and tech team, DAMGEO. The Youth Advocates have since been awarded Runners Up in the Pearson’s World Changer Awards, Business and Technology category 2020.

The Pearson World Changer Awards were aimed at young people who were taking their learning to the next level with the goal of making a positive impact on the world. Youth@CLC highlighted their passion and commitment to children’s rights alongside examples of the impact they have had and how their education has inspired and supported their work.

Despite the difficult circumstances faced by all throughout 2020, Youth@CLC were involved at all stages of continued REE development, from deciding what it should be called, what colours it should use, what information should be included and how to make it accessible. So far, REE Rights Responder has reached over 2000 young people and is continuing to be improved each day.

See the Winner’s Showcase here.

Orla McGinnity, youth advocate with youth@clc during the development of REE said: “I have learnt so much and am so grateful for my time in youth@CLC and I always looked forward to every meeting! It is crazy how little I knew about my rights before I joined! I miss everyone at CLC a lot and hope REE continues to grow, I feel so proud to have been a part of it.”

Sinead McSorley, Youth Participation and Advocacy Worker with the Children’s Law Centre said: “I am so delighted our youth advocates are being recognised for their contribution to the development of REE Rights Responder and REE Live Chat. We in the Children’s Law Centre believe that young people’s voices are crucial, especially when developing a service for all young people in Northern Ireland – we would not have been able to get this far without their help, support and critical eye. I could not be more proud or fortunate to have worked with such a great group.”

What is REE Rights Responder & REE Live Chat?

REE Rights Responder is the first online legal chatbot designed for young people under 18 to ask questions about their rights in Northern Ireland. We found that when we searched for information on young people’s rights in NI, we always found information that was specific to English Law or written in complicated legal terms. REE uses Artificial Intelligence to answer questions from young people on their rights relating to mental health, employment, homelessness, and more.

REE Rights Responder is always there, always safe, always right, always anonymous, always confidential and never judgmental.

REE can also direct young people with more complicated questions to speak to a live legal advisor through REE Live Chat, an online live chat service designed to connect young people with complex legal questions to a live legal advisor within the Children’s Law Centre or to other organisations for different types of support.

What’s next for Youth@CLC?

Youth@CLC hope that this project could affect policy change as young people have a right to know and understand their rights – we hope our impact so far gives government an incentive to implement compulsory rights awareness raising sessions in schools and in the community.

Our Youth Advocates hope to inspire other young people to get engaged in projects affecting change in their communities, particularly those which aim to improve the knowledge and understanding of rights.

Throughout 2021, youth@CLC will continue creating and developing new content, information and advice services for young people including for younger children. To find out more about the group and to get involved click here.

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Systemic Failure on Children’s Rights in Northern Ireland

16 December 2020

A report submitted by the Children’s Law Centre to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child paints a bleak picture in relation to children’s rights in Northern Ireland. The report demonstrates a systemic failure to incorporate the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child within legislation, policy and practice. This has left children’s rights in Northern Ireland far behind internationally recognised standards.

The ‘List of Issues Report’, compiled in partnership with stakeholders in Northern Ireland, seeks to inform questions posed to the UK government and NI Executive ahead of the next examination of the UK Government by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Download the report

Speaking after submitting the report, Children’s Law Centre Director, Paddy Kelly said:

“The NI Executive is failing children and young people in Northern Ireland. There has been a complete failure to make progress on concluding observations and recommendations since the previous examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. This has led to systemic failures, with no comprehensive framework to provide strong protections for children’s rights in Northern Ireland.

“The list of delays on key issues is almost endless. The Children and Young People’s Strategy has not been published and it is unclear if this is to be accepted as the delivery mechanism for UNCRC implementation. No efforts have been made to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and corporal punishment in the family remains lawful with no plans to repeal the legal defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’. Homeless children are still not being provided with suitable accommodation and medically fit children with complex needs are not able to leave hospital due to the lack of suitable accommodation in the community. Likewise, children with Special Education Needs continue to suffer due to a long list of operational failures and delays.

“This is simply unacceptable and failure to address these issues is having a devastating impact on the lives of children and young people in Northern Ireland. Things have been made even worse by COVID-19 which has exposed and exacerbated many pre-existing problems. Where we previously saw gaps in the protection of children’s rights, we are now seeing chasms.

“The current situation for children in Northern Ireland is grave and the Children’s Law Centre is seeing this daily in our work. We need to see immediate action to address these problems ahead of examination in 2022.”

NOTES:

  • The Children’s Law Centre is an independent charitable organisation established in September 1997 which works towards a society where all children can participate, are valued, have their rights respected and guaranteed without discrimination and every child can achieve their full potential. The organisation is founded on the principles enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • The Children’s Law Centre operates a dedicated free phone legal advice line for children and young people called CHALKY and provides legal information through an online platform known as ‘REE’ and legal advice through ‘REE Live Chat’ – https://childrenslawcentre.org.uk/clhexpert/
  • The Northern Ireland NGO Stakeholder Report to Inform the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s ‘List of Issues Prior to Reporting’ can be found here, the supporting evidence report can be found here
  • The Northern Ireland NGO Stakeholder Report to Inform the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s ‘List of Issues Prior to Reporting’ has been endorsed by 48 organisations
  • The Children’s Law Centre would particularly like to acknowledge the work of Deena Haydon in drafting the report, the National Children’s Bureau and Include Youth for their support in the compilation of the report and NICCY for their support.
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