‘Build Back Better’ with Children at the Heart of a Bill of Rights

29 April 2021

A Bill of Rights, with the inclusion of specific children’s rights, underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), could be transformative for children in Northern Ireland. It holds the possibility to address decades of failure for our children and young people, creating a framework for a brighter future.

Watch the Children’s Law Centre present evidence to the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights

The list of issues facing children in Northern Ireland was recently highlighted in an NGO stakeholder report to the UNCRC Committee. The report illustrated how decades of systemic failure around children’s rights have had a devastating impact on children’s lives, with COVID-19 further exacerbating problems. However, a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland would provide the perfect opportunity to build back better for children and wider society.

After presenting evidence to the NI Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights, Children’s Law Centre Director, Paddy Kelly, said:

“At the Children’s Law Centre, we firmly believe that a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland could provide a new dawn for children here. It could build on general rights protections in the Human Rights Act by incorporating child specific rights as laid out by the UNCRC, rights the UK has already signed up to but remain unenforceable.

“We could see age discrimination legislation finally enacted. It could give a voice to children in care, and it could protect children from harm. Every child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. A Bill of Rights, with specific child rights provision, could achieve that.”

Read our written briefing to the Ad Hoc Bill of Rights Committee

The Children’s Law Centre’s Director continued: “There can be no doubt that children’s rights in Northern Ireland have fallen behind and children have come to harm because of this. The results are plain for everyone to see over the past year, where Covid has exposed a weak framework of protections. There could be no better way to begin building back better than by strengthening the rights protections for our future generations.

“We have the blueprint. The UK is already a signatory to the world’s most celebrated and most complete statement on children’s rights ever produced, containing civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights. Let’s prove our commitment to these principles, and to our children and young people, by incorporating the UNCRC in to law through a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

“Where we’ve fallen behind in the past, let’s now lead the way.”

Notes: The Children’s Law Centre would like to thank Ms Moyne Anyadike-Danes for joining Paddy Kelly in presenting to the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights. The Children’s Law Centre are privileged to have worked closely over many years with Ms Anyadike-Danes in the vindication of children’s rights. She is one of the leading children’s law experts in the jurisdiction. We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Ms Anyadike-Danes and her colleague Junior Counsel Nick Scott BL in the preparation of CLC’s written submission to the Ad Hoc Committee.

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Children’s Law Centre Signs Letter in Support of the Human Rights Act

10 December 2020

Today, on global Human Rights Day, the Children’s Law Centre has joined over one hundred organisations to sign an open letter in support of the Human Rights Act.

The Human Rights Act is essential in protecting the rights of everyone in our society, including children and young people. It was enacted to protect the 16 fundamental rights, as laid out in the European Convention on Human Rights and enshrine those rights in domestic law. Any attempts to weaken or undermine those rights will have a direct impact on the rights of children and young people in Northern Ireland.

This year has underpinned the vital importance of the Human Rights Act and the protection of rights in general. The unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has placed a huge stress on the rights and freedoms of everyone, but particularly young people, people with disabilities, carers and families. Sweeping powers have been introduced with very little scrutiny. These powers have had a hugely negative impact on protected groups of people, with serious human rights implications.

In times like these, the Human Rights Act is particularly important in protecting hard fought rights and freedoms, as well as placing checks and balances on government’s power.

That is why the Children’s Law Centre signed this letter today, calling on the Prime Minister and all political leaders to stand with us in support of the Human Rights Act.

The open letter is coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights. Issued on the 10 December, global Human Rights Day, the open letter highlights the extraordinary events of 2020, and in particular the pandemic, noting that “human rights must not be an afterthought in times of crisis; human rights were born of disaster and must guide the Covid-19 response and recovery”.