Children's rights

We want to recognise, respect and promote children’s rights. These include rights to be treated fairly, to be heard and to be as healthy as possible.

Our vision is a Scotland where children’s human rights are embedded in all aspects of society. A Scotland where policy, law and decision making takes account of children’s rights and where all children have a voice and are empowered to be human rights defenders.

Parents, local and national governments and organisations which work with children and families can help children experience their rights. 

We are taking steps to ensure that children enjoy their rights, as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

These include:

  • implementing the UNCRC and incorporating it into Scots law
  • an action plan to help children and young people experience their rights
  • using the Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) to ensure that our policies and legislation protect and promote the rights and wellbeing of children and young people
  • reporting on our progress to parliament


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) sets out the fundamental rights of all children and young people. The UK ratified the UNCRC in 1991.

We will legislate to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law.

We believe that delivering the rights of children and young people as enshrined in the UNCRC is fundamental to making children’s rights real and make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.

We have consulted on the best way of incorporating  the UNCRC within the context of Scots law, public services and the powers of the Scottish Parliament. 

The three themes discussed in the consultation are used as a key framework by the children's rights working group

We already use the UNCRC as a framework to ensure that we consider children's rights whenever we take decisions, and to help provide every child with a good start in life and a safe, healthy and happy childhood.

It forms the basis of our national approach for supporting children, called Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC).

We have produced a guide to help children and young people understand the UNCRC.

Involving children and young people

Human rights of children action plan

We have set out our vision and ambition to help children and young people experience their rights within the 'Progressing the human rights of children in Scotland: 2018-2021 action plan'. This includes raising awareness of children’s rights and involving them in shaping policies.

Annual cabinet meeting

In 2017 we introduced an annual cabinet meeting with representatives from the Children’s Parliament and Scottish Youth Parliament, which allows them to raise and agree actions on issues that matter most to children and young people. This has included relationships, bullying, equality, mosquito devices, period poverty, UNCRC and Brexit.

We publish progress reports:

The First Minister held an FM Question Time in 2018 and 2019 with children and young people. Topics raised have included education, mental health, housing and equalities. These events were co-ordinated by YouthLink Scotland and Children in Scotland. The 2019 event is available from Children in Scotland.

See a thank you letter to children and young people in Scotland for their contributions in 2018 to 2019.

The rights of children in employment, performances and sports

We produce a series of guidance relating to children's rights.

Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA)

We designed the CRWIA approach to support Scottish Ministers in meeting their duties under Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and in relation to the Articles of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The CRWIA helps us to assess whether our policies and legislation will realise children's rights and help protect and promote the wellbeing of children and young people.

The CRWIA can be undertaken as part of a joint impact assessment (alongside an Equality Impact Assessment, for example) provided that:

  • there is cross-referencing of issues relevant to each impact assessment
  • outputs are published separately

CRWIA guidance

We have made the CRWIA approach available for public bodies and children's services to adapt for their own use. Guidance documents and templates (updated March 2019) are below:

For additional information: see the Children's rights legislation in Scotland - quick reference guide.

Monitoring our progress

Our progress is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child through a regular reporting cycle, in which the UK has to submit a report to the Committee and respond to issues raised . We published our response to the UK's list of issues, in March 2016 ahead of the UN Committee’s examination of the UK state party in May 2016.  In July 2016, the UN Committee published its recommendations for the UK - the concluding observations.

From 1 April 2017, all public authorities must also report every three years on the steps they have taken to implement the UNCRC. The first reports are due in 2020.

In December 2018 the first ministerial report to the Scottish Parliament under Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 was published. The Progressing the human rights of children Scotland: 2018 report sets out the progress made in relation to children’s rights since June 2015.