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.
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.”
- 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.