02 June 2023
Concluding observations include wide range of recommendations including a call to scrap the NI budget and start again
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child produced concluding observations following examination of the UK government and devolved regions.
The Children’s Law Centre has said the scale of non-compliance with human rights obligations is alarming and called for immediate action to implement the recommendations.
Fergal McFerran, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the Children’s Law Centre said:
“This is a damning set of recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. It reflects the grim picture facing children and young people in this jurisdiction today. The gap in children’s rights has grown significantly over the last decade and children and young people are suffering every day because of it, whether that’s facing discrimination, failure to access services or simply not being allowed to have a say on decisions affecting them.
“We now need to see swift action to address the many failings identified throughout the examination process. There can be no excuses or delay. The scale of non-compliance with human rights obligations is alarming.
“Some major recommendations like raising the age of criminal responsibility, legislation to protect under 18s from age discrimination, and the introduction of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland have been outstanding for years and have now been included in successive concluding observations. Other recommendations like scrapping the Northern Ireland budget, ending PSNI strip-searches of children and ending the use of contingency accommodation for asylum seeking children are new and add to a growing list of children’s rights breaches.
“Children and young people are being seriously failed. The gap in children’s rights has dramatically increased over the last decade due to the lack of action. The situation has become even worse due to the attacks on human rights by the UK government, the collapse of local decision making, the impact of Brexit and the failure to properly resource services.”
Fergal McFerran continued:
“We carried out an extensive piece of work with sector experts and children and young people themselves to identify the issues in this jurisdiction. We’re reassured that the Committee has reflected that work in their recommendations. We thank them, and in particular their UK taskforce, for their diligent work.
“We would also like to thank everyone who took part in the research, including NGOs, Dr Deena Haydon, Jerome Finnegan from Save the Children and of course the children and young people who either told us their views or presented to Committee members themselves. Their work has had a direct impact on the outcome of the reporting process.
“We now owe it to them all to see major change.”
The Concluding Observations contains a wide range of recommendations. Other key recommendations cover issues such as the right to withdraw from religious worship in schools, relationship and sexuality education, restraint and seclusion, abortion, stop and search, plastic bullets, protecting children from paramilitaries, and ending the hostile environment for refugee and asylum seekers.
The Children’s Law Centre led the Northern Ireland NGO sector in reporting to the UN Committee, including the submission of three major reports and leading two delegations of experts and young people to present evidence to Committee members.
The Centre will now work to ensure the recommendations are implemented by those responsible.
The Concluding Observations can be found at: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC%2FC%2FGBR%2FCO%2F6-7&Lang=en