CRAE responds to the Queen's Speech
The Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) will be working throughout the parliamentary session to highlight significant threats and opportunities for children's human rights, and to support Parliamentarians to strengthen legal protection for children's human rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other human rights instruments. The CRC was adopted by the United Nations in 1989 and ratified by the UK in December 1991. October 2008 saw the third examination of the UK Government's implementation of the CRC, which resulted in almost 120 recommendations detailing where more needs to be done to strengthen children's human rights.
This statement focuses on the Government's proposals to reform the role of the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England, as outlined in the Queen's Speech.
CRAE is delighted that the Government proposes to include provisions to strengthen the role of the Children's Commissioner in the Children and Families Bill and strongly supports the proposal that the Commissioner should have a new power to undertake children's rights impact assessments on policy and legislation affecting children. A strong, independent Children's Commissioner is crucial to the protection and promotion of children's rights in England.
In order to fulfill this role effectively, it is essential that provisions relating to the Children's Commissioner's mandate, duties, powers and accountability comply with those minimum standards established in the Paris Principles for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for NHRIs for children, and by the European Network of Ombudspeople for Children. The Children's Commissioner must:
- seek the full realisation of children's rights;
- be fully independent of Government, political parties, NGOs and other interest groups;
- have a broad mandate, with strong investigatory powers, and adequate resources; and
- be accountable to Parliament, the public and (most crucially) children and young people.
Changes to the role of the Children's Commissioner will be most effective if accompanied by complementary measures to ensure that children's rights are at the heart of public decision-making. The Government has stated its commitment to ensuring that children's rights considerations influence government policy development. This Bill presents an opportunity to reflect and strengthen this commitment, in legislation, through enactment of duties on public authorities to have due regard to children's rights in matters affecting children.