1. Perceptions of the Action Plan
In summary, the proposals in the consultation document were welcomed and there was consensus that all children have rights that should be respected and enhanced. Whilst the content of the Action Plan was largely accepted by respondents to the consultation, there is scope for extending and refining the Plan. Harnessing existing knowledge was important to respondents and included applying learnings from elsewhere to develop the strategic framework and legislation and programme best practice to achieve the aims of the Action Plan. Extending the scope of the plan was also suggested, in ways that would include more explicit links to the UNCRC principles, details on proposed budgets, ethical considerations and detail on the proposed evaluation tools that could be used to monitor the development of the strategic framework.
Overall response to the Action Plan
The Action Plan details the Scottish Ministers' plans for taking forward children's rights. It sets out key activities that will be taken forward from June 2018 until June 2021. The consultation focused on the content of the Action plan and asked respondents whether they agreed that it should include the following:
i. Identified overarching strategic actions intended to secure transformational change in how children and young people experience their rights
ii. A summary of specific initiatives being taken forward across all Scottish Government portfolios that captures what we will do in the next 3 years to secure better or further effect of the UNCRC principles.
iii. A number of key policy specific actions identified through the consultation process that are not currently being taken forward through other Scottish Government initiatives
There was consensus that the Action Plan should include these three components. Over nine in ten of those who completed the consultation (114 respondents) supported the inclusion of these within the Action Plan.
Question 1: Do you agree that the Action Plan should include:
Overarching strategic actions intended to secure transformational change: 98%
Specific initiatives from across Scottish Government portfolios to secure the UNCRC principles: 96%
New key policy specific actions identified through the consultation process: 96%
Base: n=114 participants of the consultation (Citizen Space only)
Over nine in ten of those who completed the consultation both via Citizen Space (114 respondents) and SurveyMonkey (403 respondents) overwhelmingly agreed that the four overarching strategic actions proposed by Scottish Government were appropriate and will potentially help to take forward the principles of the UNCRC. As the charts illustrate below, this was consistent across each of the four proposed actions:
Question 2: Do you agree that the 4 proposed overarching strategic actions are appropriate and will help to take forward the principles of the UNCRC?
Development of a dynamic Participation Framework: 96%
Delivery of the 3 year children's rights awareness programme: 94%
Comprehensive audit on how to embed UNCRC principles: 92%
Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment: 96%
Base: n=114 participants of the consultation (Citizen Space only)
Question 2: Do you agree that the 4 proposed overarching strategic actions are appropriate and will help to take forward the principles of the UNCRC?
Development of a dynamic Participation Framework: 96%
Delivery of the 3 year children's rights awareness programme: 93%
Comprehensive audit on how to embed UNCRC principles: 94%
Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment: 92%
Base: n=403 participants of the consultation (SurveyMonkey only)
Harnessing existing good practice in strategic frameworks, and relevant research, legislation and programme delivery
The consultation states that the proposed participation framework would include 'an evidence base of existing research and new learning about best practice in participation'. Annex A of the consultation document includes examples of key initiatives focused on children's rights. This was not a comprehensive list but provided an illustration of the wide range of initiatives and activity being considered. As part of the consultation exercise, respondents advised that the Action Plan needs to offer more detail about the good practice that will be used to inform the development of the strategic actions.
Scottish Government proposed that a key action within the Action Plan would be the development of a strategic participation framework, in consultation with children, young people and relevant partners. The aim of the framework would be to support the participation of children and young people at national and local levels. Nearly all (96%) respondents supported the inclusion of a dynamic strategic framework as a key action. However, respondents advised that Action Plan could be more explicit about the way in which the participation framework embraces the volumes of innovative work that already exists across multiple sectors:
Framework must not become Day 1 in the youth participation in Scotland, but rather must celebrate and learn from the amazing volume and quality of innovative work which has taken place, since the 1990s largely facilitated and led by Scotland's youth work sector. (Organisation)
The consultation document states that 'we have this incredible opportunity to strengthen the voices of children and young people even further and make sure that they can significantly influence public services and decisions which affect their lives.' (4.5) Respondents felt strongly that the Scottish Government could use existing evidence where children and young people have already spoken across a range of relevant issues. The government could reflect on the decades of knowledge, practice and experience the exists across the sector to ensure that children's and young people's voices are heard.
Participants felt that the Scottish Government could review models of participation when developing the strategic framework. Respondents recommended the following models in their consultation responses, some of which are already included in the consultation document: What Kind of Edinburgh (2017); Year of Young People (2018) , Investing in Children and Impact of Children; Young People's Engagement in Policy Making, Scotland's Children's Sector Strategic and Policy Forum, Getting it Right for Every Child , the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) under the Equality Act 2010 and the Young People's Rights Review.
When the Scottish Government develops the dynamic strategic framework, assurances have been given in the consultation that it will reflect on best practice and research based on children and young people in the UK. Respondents have also requested reassurances that the government will also learn from other countries, such as Ireland.
Yet respondents had concerns that using these existing frameworks may narrow the focus of the new strategic participation framework and recommended the Scottish Government could cultivate an overarching national framework, rather than focusing on the needs of individual communities. The volumes of work that reflect the voices of young people in specific local communities and the whole Scottish region could be used to develop this overarching strategic framework:
We would endorse one national framework rather than several local interpretations. The Framework should include existing initiatives/ tools such as Rights Respecting Schools and link with policy and legislation such as; the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 Part 3 – Children's Services Planning, Equality Act 2010 schools' duties and Additional Support for Learning Act duties, Community Empowerment Act 2015, Community Learning and Development Plans and Pupil Equity Funding Plans. (Organisation)
Respondents felt that Scottish Government could reflect not just on research and best practice from across the sector, but also reflect on previous legislation. Consultation responses urged Scottish Government to progress the actions that were seen to not yet be successfully implemented from the previous Children's Rights Action Plan, 'Do the Right Thing' (2009).
Further to a review of old legislation, Scottish Government could also include an audit of pre-existing training materials produced by third sector organisations and public bodies.
Extending the scope of the Action Plan
Over nine in ten of those who completed the consultation on Citizen Space agreed that the Action Plan should include strategic actions to secure how children and young people experience their rights. A similar proportion also agreed that the Action Plan should include both a summary of initiatives that help to secure UNCRC principles and key policy actions identified through this consultation process.
Whilst respondents agreed with the proposals, they also felt that the scope of the Action Plan could be extended further. Across the consultation exercise, respondents offered suggestions on how the strategic actions could be more comprehensive and extensive. Respondents called for further detail on the strategic actions set out in the Action Plan, seeking full incorporation of UNCRC principles into Scots Law.
Respondents felt the scope of the strategic actions could be extended further by including each Article of the UNCRC, including all sub sections. The majority welcomed the commitment to incorporate the principles of the UNCRC in to domestic law (announced in the Programme for Government in September 2018), however there was a sense of uncertainty and ambiguity about whether these principles would be incorporated fully into law.
We appreciate that the Programme for Government for 2017-18 included the commitment to undertake a comprehensive audit on the most effective and practical ways to further embed the principles of the UNCRC into policy, practise and legislation. To progress this agenda, we firmly believe that full incorporation of the UNCRC into domestic law should be promoted from an option to a target within the lifespan of the Action Plan. (Organisation)
The general direction of incorporating the principles of the UNCRC into domestic law was endorsed. Respondents suggested that it would be helpful for Scottish Government to map out specific actions against each article of the UNCRC and to provide the detail on links to all individual UNCRC articles. Respondents were hopeful that this would limit the risk of the exclusion of some children's rights or specific vulnerable groups.
The strategic actions could also be extended further by relating, in a meaningful way, to both the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, respondents felt that this detail was currently lacking in the proposed Action Plan. The action points could also be extended further to include a top up to child benefit, to recognise the significance and impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and how progressing children's rights may contribute to a reduction in ACEs.
Over nine in ten of respondents agreed that one of the overarching strategic aims to deliver a 3-year children's rights awareness programme would support embedding the UNCRC principles. If the children's rights awareness programme is successful, there could be an increase in complaints from those whose rights are violated and the Action Plan may need to reflect this. Respondents suggested that the Action Plan could be extended to include a strategic action that supports young people who wish to challenge their rights violations.
Respondents also suggested that the Action Plan be extended further to include additional detail. Mentions across the consultation included: resources; a child-friendly complaints process, processes to publish complaints and advocacy support. An additional recommendation was to remove the defence of 'justifiable assault' to increase the protection of children and young people in the long term.
There was a desire for further detail on the specific actions that Scottish Ministers wish to progress as part of the Action Plan. On this basis, respondents recommended that there could be a clearly defined operational framework that clarifies the activities and actions which will be undertaken:
We believe that once the strategic content of the Action Plan has been agreed, consideration should be given to the development of a specific operational framework to clearly define the activities and actions which will be undertaken to support agreed objectives. This should include timelines, resources, measurable outcomes and clear governance structures. This will allow progress to be effectively monitored and progress to be more accurately assessed. (Organisation)
Respondents were concerned that the Action Plan may be too narrow in scope to include all government programmes. Whilst respondents welcomed the inclusion of schemes from across government, they expressed a desire to extend its reach further:
We welcome the plan to include reference to specific initiatives across all government portfolios but are concerned that in the current list not every portfolio is represented, for example, Culture, Tourism and External Affairs. (Organisation)
The Action Plan could be extended further to ensure that it includes ethical considerations, regarding consent when consulting with children and young people. Respondents felt that Scottish Government should give clear guidance and instructions on ethical issues within the Action Plan. Expanding the scope of the Action Plan to include clarification on ethics would inform organisations working to implement the Action Plan.
Effective evaluation would allow for better performance management and allocation of resources over the next three years. Respondents felt that there was a lack of detail in the consultation on how any initiatives and actions would be measured and evaluated moving forward. It was recommended that as the framework is developed, evaluation tools should be implemented to enable effective monitoring:
Monitoring and evaluation tools should be co-created as the framework develops so that reflections are recorded and recommendations implemented from the beginning. Monitoring should also record how participation is being embedded and is inclusive and accessible to those seldom heard from. (Organisation)
The Action Plan sets out a three-year initiative, but respondents suggested that it could be extended to show how the short-term three-year plan coheres with the long-term initiatives (listed in Annex A of the consultation) e.g. how the Action Plan would feed into the education and mental health improvement framework.
The Action Plan could also be extended in a way that ensures that young people are included in the title. Respondents suggested that the Action Plan could be called a 'Children and Young People's Rights Action Plan 2018-2021' as opposed to 'Progressing Children's Rights in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018-2021'.
The Action Plan currently offers little detail on budget and funding allocation. Respondents felt that they wanted reassurances on how and where funds will be invested. Given that the Action Plan states that one of the aims will be to increase the capacity of the third sector to undertake some of the tasks involved in engaging young people, respondents expressed their desire for further clarification on how this will be managed and what funds will be made available for third sector bodies.
A further suggestion on how to increase the detail on budgeting within the Action Plan, focuses on the actual budgeting model to be applied. It was recommended that there could be a 'children's thematic budget' (as per the Scottish Women's Budget Group (SWBG)) which could be used to illustrate how the allocated funds would affect children and young people. The SWBG seeks to challenge the decisions Scottish Government makes about how public money is spent. Respondents proposed that, in a similar way, Scottish Government could also be challenged on how public money is allocated to guarantee that it is spent effectively on children and young people in Scotland.
One organisation reported they do not support the Action Plan because they believe the principles underpinning the Children's' Rights Act reflect 'political bias'.
2. Need for inclusion of children and young people
The consultation document sets out approaches that might support wider engagement with children and young people at national and local levels. The underpinning principle of the Action Plan that children and young people will engage with the strategic actions and be heard and listened to, was supported by respondents. Respondents wanted reassurances that individual groups of seldom heard and vulnerable children would be included in the Action Plan. Participants expressed their concerns that specific groups of seldom heard children and young people were not explicitly referenced in the consultation. The strategic aim of managing a campaign focused on raising awareness of children’s rights was welcomed, supported by a firm commitment to inclusivity of children at national and local levels. Involving children and young people in the development of the participation framework work was important to respondents, to ensure that children and young people were supported throughout the engagement process. Respondents felt both the participation framework and outputs could extend their reach, if they are communicated in a child-friendly and accessible way.
The importance of representing children and young people in the Action Plan
A key aim of the participation framework set out in the consultation document, is that children and young people support measures which can help encourage the participation of children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable, in the decisions that affect them. In the Engagement with Children and Young People section of the consultation document (Annex B), there are references to examples of seldom heard groups of children and young people who have participated in events.
The consultation responses demonstrated that respondents were concerned that specific groups of vulnerable children have not been explicitly referenced or included in the Action Plan. Both organisations and individuals articulated their concerns that the most vulnerable groups of young people may not be adequately involved or engaged in the participation framework. One organisation summarises:
In terms of the second strategic action, raising awareness of children's rights, this could be strengthened by making an explicit commitment to targeting vulnerable groups of children and young people. There is evidence to suggest that awareness of children's rights is particularly low amongst vulnerable groups…. It seems important therefore that there is an explicit commitment to raising awareness of children's rights amongst vulnerable groups of children and young people. (Organisation)
Respondents felt that the Action Plan needs to demonstrate that it is encompassing all children and young people whose needs may not be met by 'universal services'. The groups of children mentioned by both individuals and organisations across the consultation include those with complex disabilities and needs; autistic children; deaf children, those with psychiatric needs and mental health issues, LGBT+ children and young people; girls and young women; those who are homeless; victims of domestic abuse, those with life-limiting conditions and those in hospitals. Respondents were concerned that the needs of these groups may be ignored when implementing the Action Plan because they may struggle to communicate their own needs.
Development of a dynamic Participation Framework for Children and Young People should include ALL children by addressing inequality issues such as poverty, disability, literacy, English as the first language and other communication issues, rurality, age, care experienced, young carers, sexuality, health and those not engaging in schools or groups (such as brownies and cubs). There needs to be more emphasis on how ALL children (particularly those in the groups listed) will influence the participation framework and the strategy itself. (Organisation)
There was a desire for reassurances that both those in education and those who are not engaged in schools are involved, and that those with literacy, English as a second language and other communication requirements are also considered. An organisation stressed the importance of including alternative education providers in the development of the framework to ensure that there will be a level of engagement with those who have been excluded from mainstream education.
Similarly, there were several mentions among the consultation responses that focused on the need to accommodate children and young people who reside in care (both secure and residential). There were demands that children and young people whose parents are in the Armed Forces or whose parents are in prison, could also be accommodated given the unique challenges and difficulties that they face.
There was a shared concern articulated among the organisation responses that babies and younger children may not currently be accommodated adequately in this process and that they could be treated as 'active citizens':
Professor Aline-Wendy Dunlop refers to the 'ladder of participation for children' and reflects that babies and very young children are 'not waiting to be citizens, they are citizens of the environment that they are in, they have democratic rights to influence what is going on." (Organisation)
Respondents felt that those in remote rural areas must also be heard and given feedback on actions taken.
Respondents requested that those currently seeking asylum, migrant and refugee children could be engaged with the process and that this process could also represent the voices of disparate ethnic minorities and all religions.
For several organisations, a simple promise to include these vulnerable groups would not suffice, they wanted reassurances on how accessibility to these groups will be approached. A stratified sampling approach could ensure that a broad sample of children and young people are engaged in the participation framework:
The Scottish Government must ensure that it is fair and reflective of the communities it represents. It must NOT filter or select information to represent its own views and ambitions but collect and analyse the information in ways that truly reflect Scottish communities and then ensure that the actions respond to the actual needs of those communities. (Organisation)
Opportunities for engaging children and young people in their rights
Respondents advised that the Action Plan needs to be written in a way that is accessible for young people and children. Concerns focused on the fact that the language may be too technical and difficult to understand and that producing documents in English and other languages may increase its reach. Respondents suggested that children and young people may find it easier to understand their 'rights' if they are made relevant and 'real' by being linked to real life examples, rather than presented to them as abstract concepts.
…Children's familiarity with the principle of non-discrimination must be joined with the knowledge that if a police officer unfairly targets them because of their identity, they can challenge the breach of their rights. 'Ambitious' should imply action learning, not merely academic knowledge, using Case Studies (negative and positive) that demonstrate children's experience interacting with and participating in Scottish society and institutions such as the criminal justice system, Government and education, to enhance active awareness. (Organisation)
Likewise, when focusing on raising awareness of children's rights among young people, respondents also advised that Scottish Government considered the format of their outputs, in terms of increasing interest and engagement among young people. In terms of dissemination, it was also advised that campaign messages need to be visible via the forums that young people occupy e.g. Facebook and Instagram pop ups with consistent easily recognised messages that reach young people across these forums.
Communications so far are in the format of word documents; which is not ideal if the aim is to increase the interest of young people in a rights culture. For those of us outside of government; it's difficult to see clearly, how actions within the report taken by the Scottish Government are directly related to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It would be useful if digital communications were more visual and interactive; for example, create an interactive digital map to show how the Scottish Government is meeting the aims of each article within the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Organisation)
Another dissemination suggestion was to develop a portal for young people seeking unbiased information about current areas of engagement:
Other suggestions were the creation of a 'non-politically spun' portal where young people can seek unbiased information about current areas of engagement. However, this would also need to be heavily promoted as it would not be an online community that young people would naturally gravitate towards.
Respondents recommended that young people could be involved and engaged with the ongoing development of the Action Plan, which in turn could guarantee that it would be accessible for the majority. It was reported as unclear from the consultation document what or how the Scottish Government have defined co-production and it was considered essential that co-production could have young people at the heart. Respondents felt that it would be important to look at different approaches to co-production and the extent to which they meet the need of different groups of children and young people. Respondents advised that the action plan needed to be young person-friendly and written by young people.
Scottish Ministers should consider documents that are young people friendly, have accessible language with use of plain English and offer materials in other languages. (Organisation)
The consultation document discussed the annual Cabinet meeting with children and young people, noting that this demonstrates 'our real commitment to ensuring that children and young people's voices are listened to and taken seriously at the highest level in government.' The consultation responses showed support for this promise and a shared desire to listen to the child's voice and share their opinions and views with Scottish Government. It was recommended that engagement could include diverse and multiple avenues to give children a voice as 'not all children want to be consulted in the same way'. Respondents suggested that engagement opportunities include face to face activities, in recognition that not all children use social media and for those who have limited access to digital platforms. Engagement could build on the everyday interests and concerns across all age groups.
While digital methods are useful, high quality in-person engagement on this issue should not be overlooked. Rights are an emotive subject and the Scottish Government may find it difficult to engage if the opportunities to participate are not varied or emotive enough. (Organisation)
It is important that all children, irrespective of their physical or learning abilities are given access to the same opportunities to participate in the participation framework. One organisation recommended that Pamis digital passports and Pamis multisensory stories are utilised to support the engagement of children and young people with profound and multiple disabilities.
Some respondents also suggested that the young people who participate in the consultation could also be given access to the outcomes so they feel valued and get to see the impact of their involvement.
Respondents felt that the Action Plan could also clarify how children and young people will be involved moving forward throughout the three-year process and beyond, rather than this being one single interaction:
To ensure children and young people's participation is not a one-off exchange, clarity is needed on how children and young people will be involved at all stages of policy and practice development; this includes involvement in monitoring and evaluation processes. (Organisation)
3. Engaging key audiences in supporting children's inclusion
Scottish Government may consider engaging key audiences within the Action Plan. Respondents included schools, parents/families, children’s services and third sector organisations as audiences that have a pivotal role to play in implementing the Action Plan. These agencies have unique relationships with the most vulnerable groups of children and young people and collaborative working with government could ensure that these vulnerable groups are represented. Both parents and teachers share a responsibility in teaching children about their rights, and respondents suggested they have access to training to support the rights of children at home, in school and more generally. Children’s services and third sector organisations could also help support the aims of the Action Plan by encouraging the young people they serve to communicate freely in decisions about their rights.
Schools and education providers
Teachers and schools have a critical role to play in the implementation of the Action Plan. Both in terms of increasing awareness and understanding of children's rights among children and young people, and in terms of supporting them to engage with their rights. Schools also offer a safe environment where UNCRC principles can be embedded in classroom practices.
Teachers and schools share a responsibility in educating children, helping them to understand their own rights and how to respond if these rights are violated. Respondents felt that both nursery and schools could be obliged to teach children about their own rights. Respondents proposed that this could be mandatory and accommodated in the school curriculum. Educating children about their rights would help children and young people to understand their rights and the importance of having the principles of the UNCRC embedded in Scottish legislation.
Respondents shared their views on how pupils could learn about the workings of the legal system to understand, appreciate and help secure their rights. Some respondents called for this to be mandatory that law and the legal system is introduced in the classroom. In order that teachers are prepared for this responsibility, Scottish Government may introduce a programme of teacher training to incorporate learning (and then teaching) about UNCRC principles within schools.
Incentivising engagement with children's rights was seen to be effective for furthering the aims of the consultation. Schools could potentially receive recognition for their role in educating children and young people about their rights. The Gold Standard UNICEF Respecting Rights Award (RRSA) was viewed as a meaningful way to both support and encourage schools to help embed children's rights fully within Scottish society. It was recommended that schools work towards the RRSA throughout the three-year period of the Action Plan, to help promote an understanding of the rights of the child, among children and young people themselves.
Consultation responses focused on the significant role that both schools and teachers would play in raising awareness of children's rights among their young pupils. Respondents also focussed on the way in which specific UNCRC principles would be integrated and embedded in classroom life. Respondents focussed on play-based learning at primary level in schools, linking this specifically to Article 31 of the UNCRC. A unique view was for the school start age to be raised to 7 years old, with no formal introduction of literacy or numeracy until this age and all formal testing removed. Article 31 links to a play-based approach to learning, rather than the formalised approach currently offered in formal primary years education. When reflecting on Article 31, respondents recommended that nurseries should offer a minimum of 50% 'outside' time because "it is the child's rights to live a 'creative life' and that should be built into the language of the policies and Action Plan guidance."
Respondents highlighted that some young people struggle with finding their voice, both on school council and within the school environment more generally. Schools could support all pupils and address conflict and barriers within the classroom, so that all children and young people can find their voice, exercise their rights and speak out when they feel that their rights have been violated:
The work of Byrne et al 2018 and the young people's led research (supported by The University of Edinburgh and Investing in Children, IiC) identified that some young people's views are given no weight at all in decision making in schools. The research highlighted a lack of listening; discrimination against children from diverse and less well-off backgrounds; and the use of rigid rules and punishment to deprive pupils of their right to education. The young people involved in the project concluded that there is a need to address the cultures, structures and relationship issues in schools that create barriers and inhibit appreciative relationship building between adults and pupils. (Individual)
Partnerships and collective collaborations of professionals from across the education sector could potentially support embedding the strategic actions set out in the Action Plan. Respondents suggest that collaborations with educational specialists, could support the implementation of the Action Plan. A collaboration, such as Regional Improvement Collaboratives, that shares the purpose of bringing together a range of professionals who focus on supporting teachers to improve children and young people's educational attainment:
Overall, we are of the view that there would be benefit in having a greater focus on partnership, which we consider would link the strategic actions well. This could be improved by ensuring collective collaboration. For example, we believe that there would be a greater accountability or management of these actions if they were to be set within the Improvement plans of the 6 Regional Improvement Collaboratives. Not only is this a more manageable group to assist the implementation of these actions, but each RIC will undoubtedly have children from every sector. Having RICS at the forefront of these actions could lead to a more integrated and cohesive system. (Organisation)
Parents and carers
Parents, extended families and carers play a critical role in supporting children and preparing them for the world beyond home-life. They have a significant part to play in the implementation of the Action Plan, both in terms of raising awareness of children's rights and the development of the participation framework. They are well-placed to inform their own children of their rights and yet often do not have the knowledge or experience to do so.
Respondents suggested that practical training and an information campaign among parents is essential. It was suggested that Scottish Government could link up with parent forums to raise awareness of the UNCRC principles among parents and parenting networks. Consultation responses expressed a desire to also raise awareness of children's rights among parents during the ante-natal period. The Baby Box approach in Sweden is proposed as an effective way to support parents to understand children's rights and how to uphold these.
Parental engagement of parents/carers should be reflected with the view of informing parents of the rights for their child. (SurveyMonkey sample)
Respondents also suggested that funding could be allocated to ensure that midwives and health visitors inform parents about their children's rights.
More general support for parents should also be considered, as there is currently no overarching Parenting Strategy, despite a number of different parenting programmes such as Solihull and Triple P, which can lead to confusion for parents and practitioners especially when cultural differences in parenting styles arise. (Organisation)
Given the critical role that parents and carers play in the lives of their children, respondents requested that both parents and carers engage in the development of the participation framework. Furthermore, both parents and siblings of children and young people with profound disabilities are involved in the development of the framework to ensure that the views of these young people are elicited in the most appropriate way.
The proposal will not encompass the needs of children and young people with autism and learning disability unless the views of their parents and carers are also included. This is because these children and young people have communication difficulties, and yet much greater need for statutory services. (Organisation)
Children's services, including independent advocates
Children's services and independent advocates have the potential to give a voice to the most vulnerable groups of children and young people. It is important that Scottish Government engages with these services and bodies. Respondents suggested that collaborative working with these organisations could enable and increase the accessibility, engagement and interaction of young people across the three-year process.
Practitioners working with children and young people in disadvantaged areas can give an 'insider's view' on the impact of deprivation and poverty on young people. Respondents suggested that children's services could be invited to contribute to the planning, approach and implementation of the strategic actions, because they are so well-placed to advise on how to engage these children and young people. Respondents suggested that consideration could be given to every LA/CPP having a Children's Rights Lead Manager and a Children's Rights Service during the development of the Participation Framework.
I think it is important to gather specific views from those practitioners working in extreme areas of deprivations. I am the DHT in one of Scotland's most deprived schools and the realities for this are much more significant than can be outlined in any paper without a real, insider view on the affects this has on children. (Individual)
Children's services can vocalise the needs of seldom heard groups of children and young people. It could potentially be a requisite that organisations who work with vulnerable groups are involved in the development of the participation framework. Given that involving vulnerable groups of children and young people often involve extra safety and wellbeing considerations:
It is essential that organisations who are experienced in working with vulnerable groups of children and young people have a seat at the table when developing the participation framework to ensure it is fit for purpose. (Organisation)
Given their experience of working with a range of children and young people, respondents suggested that there needs to be open dialogue between public bodies and organisations about facilitating participation. This is not just because they are 'experts' but also to minimise the risk that public services will duplicate resources "in pursuit of the same aim" (Organisation). There needs to be transparency about how these various public sector bodies will gather information and encourage participation over the next three years.
Not only could children's services be involved in the development of the participation framework, there is also an argument that they could be given access to the outcomes of the Action Plan. The outcomes will potentially benefit the young people who access these services. These organisations could learn from the outcomes and embed a culture of participation and listening in their practice, that will benefit young people in the long-term. The framework could be appropriate for a broad range of parties that work with children and young people.
Given that children's services play such a critical role in the lives of children and young people, respondents felt that budget could be allocated to local authorities specifically. Investment targeting skilled and competent practitioners could facilitate the engagement of children and young people in the development of the strategic framework. Respondents wanted reassurances that there would be this investment of financial resource in the implementation and development of the framework, as they felt that this funding could help realise the meaningful participation of children and young people in the process.
Scottish Government and local authorities should build in consistent funding streams to promote the participation of children and young people. Wherever possible this should support ongoing, child led engagement where children and young people are given a space to raise issues that they want to talk about. (Organisation)
Advocacy helps young people to better understand their rights and what to do when their rights are not met. Independent advocacy therefore has a critical role to play in the implementation of the Action Plan. Respondents requested that the Action Plan highlight the importance of independent advocacy. Respondents felt that there is a current lack of adequate advocacy services for young people, particularly for both those who are entitled to access the service until the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2003 and refugee and migrant children. They also felt that there is a lack in advocacy services for children and young people who are required to attend hearings.
We would like to see the Action Plan itself highlight the importance of independent advocacy. Independent Advocates are professionals with a particular set of skills, knowledge and expertise. They are a vital resource for many different people who find it difficult to access services for a variety of reasons. Independent advocacy safeguards people; who are vulnerable and discriminated against; or whom services find difficult to serve. (Organisation)
Given that advocacy services help young people to understand their rights, respondents suggested that the Action Plan could show that funding would be allocated to the legal advice services that currently provide free advice to children and young people. Respondents expressed their concerns about the lack of provision of some advocacy services and felt that funding would help support these important advocacy services.
The 16-17 Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance's 'A Map of Advocacy across Scotland' found significant gap in provision for CYP with a mental illness, and in some local authority areas there is no provision at all. Similarly, at children's hearings, the majority of children do not have access to independent advocacy. (Organisation)
The consultation responses included proposals that requested that small organisations could be made aware of the ELC Inclusion Fund which could be utilised to provide children accessing their funded ELC with additional support. The ELC Inclusion Fund was created with £2 million funding to enable staff to better support children with disabilities and other additional support needs.
Third sector organisations
Third sector organisations include voluntary and community organisations (both registered charities and other organisations such as associations, self-help groups and community groups), social enterprises, mutual and co-operatives. Like the children's services bodies, third sector organisations regularly engage with children and young people and are well placed to be strong advocates for children's rights. The organisations working within the youth sector have the potential to encourage young people's participation in the development of the strategic framework:
The Participation Framework must recognise that participation is a relationship-based experience, where young people must have access to information and in most cases facilitation support before they can choose to participate. This will require financial investment in, and increased capacity of, organisation within Scotland's youth work sector, to ensure that young people can meaningfully engage in delivering the elements of this framework (Organisation)
Section 4.6 of the consultation document noted that, 'initial thinking is that the proposed framework would include … a central resource to enable Scottish Government business areas to engage with children and young people on policy and legislation and increase the capacity of the third sector to undertake this work', yet respondents requested further reassurances on the involvement of third sector bodies. It was recommended that Scottish Government seeks input from key stakeholders from a range of third sector organisations throughout every stage of the implementation of the Action Plan. Respondents requested that organisations working with disabled children and young people are engaged in the framework development. In addition, respondents recommended that those who are involved in local youth participation structures could also be engaged to support the involvement of young people in the process.
A 'Participation Champion' in the development process of all policy and legislation to ensure all policy areas are serving our young people well could hold responsibility for involving and coordinating young people and third sector input throughout every stage of the policy-making process. (Organisation)
Third-sector organisations are experienced at engaging all young people across a range of difficult issues, encouraging young people to express themselves via appropriate methods of engagement. This does not just relate to those third sector organisations supporting children and young people with disabilities, but to children and young people from across society. Scottish Government could harness the experience and expertise of third-sector organisations in the development of a participation framework to support children and young people to express themselves and understand the range of complicated issues that would be at the focus point of discussion:
The cultural sector (some of which are third-sector organisations) are very experienced in how to engage well, how to increase participation and how to manage, simplify and explore complex subjects, the Scottish Government should consider how to work with the cultural sector and the third sector to engage with children and young people in conversations about rights. (Organisation)
Scottish Government could work collaboratively with both voluntary organisations and local authorities to deliver a programme of activity that shares consistent messaging and content via a high profile and collaborative campaign. Respondents felt that this collaborative way of working with third-sector organisations would help to raise awareness of children's rights.
Third sector organisations' services were viewed as 'a lifeline for many children' by organisations and individuals, for young people unable to access statutory services or services closed due to insufficient funding. It was recommended that Scottish Government could support stronger partnership working and communication between the statutory and third sectors.
4. Leveraging policy and legislation for children's inclusion
Consultation respondents generally believed children’s rights should be at the heart of policy and planning in Scotland; and evidencing progress and demonstrating accountability underpinned these views. Respondents argued that existing legislation could be used more, or in new ways, to protect children effectively. For example, modify existing legislation to align it with the Action Plan and to feature children and young people more explicitly. Strengthening child protection policy and legislation by including an auditing and feedback mechanism in safeguarding processes may also help respond to suspected or actual children’s right
Using existing policy and legislation to uphold children's rights
Respondents in support of the Action Plan came up with recommendations – some more formal than others – of how to uphold children's rights and align the Plan with existing legislation.
Embedding the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into policy, practice and legislation (Action 3 of the Action Plan) received widespread support through the closed questions and responses to the open questions. Children's rights were viewed as cutting across policy and legislation, and respondents believed the UNCRC should be considered in all new policy, with some going further to argue for it to be enshrined into domestic law. Respondents who answered the open questions often recommended actions that were in line with Action 3.
Respondents shared existing policies and law where they expected coordination with the Action Plan: Equally Safe Plan, the Anti-Poverty Strategy, the Child Poverty Action Plan, Fairer Scotland, the Play Strategy and Scotland's culture policy.
I think that it is vital to properly coordinate the proposed actions and outcomes. This not only to avoid duplication and confusion but also to keep people's motivation to participate high. (Individual)
Two Citizen Space users did not support Action 3 in terms of progressing the comprehensive audit on the most effective and practical ways to further embed the principles of the UNCRC into policy, practice and legislation, including the option of full incorporation into domestic law. One other individual also opposed Action 3, they described it as a 'children's rights doctrine' and criticised it for not giving autonomy to families in these matters:
The strategy seems to focus solely on children's rights however everyone has rights not just children. Families must work as units and no one person has more rights than the other however children seem to have the idea they have rights and those rights trump everyone else - this is absolutely not the case. (Individual)
Respondents also proposed less formal methods, to implement the Plan effectively and have strong mechanisms for accountability and enforcement. An organisation believed the audit included in Action 3 be completed before the awareness-raising of children's rights which constitutes Action 2.
We suggest the audit must take place before any kind of awareness raising campaign on children's rights. Decision-makers, influential public bodies and the Scottish legal system needs to understand what children's rights mean in practice, before we try to educate Scottish society about them. (Organisation)
Organisations also suggested using existing state powers (such as corporate parent powers and the ability to get public bodies to report actions) to implement children's rights effectively, without having to enshrine new laws.
Requir[e] public bodies to report on how they implement and embed the principles of UNCRC into their strategic planning and operational delivery. (Organisation)
Perceived tension between existing policy and law and the children's wellbeing
The proposed Action 3 of the Consultation was considered to have challenges. Some organisations identified a perceived tension between existing policy and the Action Plan, with some policies considered to be at odds with the principles of children's or human rights, like Secure Care, the age of Criminal Responsibility and age of consent to sexual activity. For example, in the absence of a ban on using 'mosquito' devices to disperse groups of young people from public and private spaces, it was suggested that the policy was undermining children and young people's wellbeing.
We welcome […] that the Ministers have said they are now "not opposed" to restrictions on such devices, however no specific plans have been brought forward to regulate or ban them in any way. The Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland has previously highlighted how use of [mosquito] devices breach many children and young people's rights. (Organisation)
Another example was the inability of children and young people to legally withdraw, or opt-out, from religious observance in Scotland, an observation also made by the UN committee on the rights of the children..
There is no current commitment to extend the opt-out of religious observance to young people as well as their parents and guardians. [We] believe that individuals have a right to self-determine their religion or belief and we strongly support the Universal Human Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief. (Organisation)
The armed forces recruitment policy was noted as being at odds with the rights of young people, because of its ability to recruit 16-18-year-olds.
While these recommendations fall within the purview of the UK Government we still believe that the Scottish Government can play an active and positive role in making sure these recommendations come to fruition by […] undertaking a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment on the continued presence of the armed forces as recruiters in Scottish schools. [And] raising the issue of child recruitment into the UK armed forces with the UK Government and other devolved administrations, actively supporting the recommendations of the UNCRC. (Organisation)
Respondent suggestions for new or revised policy and legislation
Respondents also shared suggestions for new or revised policy and law they felt would better support the rights of children and young people. These views varied and reflect the principles and values held by respondents expressing them, and include increasing the age of pupils receiving sex education, setting a minimum age for body piercings and making clearer how the Named Person, as set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, is intended to meet the needs of children, young people and their families.
One respondent felt that the age which children are receiving relationship and sexual health education is too young and felt this was problematic for the rights of these children.
Other actions to include involve protection against sexual education being discussed at an early age. The right to be protected from unhelpful indoctrination of sexual identity and gender ideas imposed by government. (Individual)
Introducing a minimum age for ear and body piercings was viewed by one respondent as necessary for supporting the mental and physical health of children and young people.
Babies and young children are getting their ears and other body parts pierced at the instance of their parents which is legal in this country but is extremely distressing to the child. It can also be dangerous as a young child cannot keep clean appropriately or avoid injury. Surely this is a violation of that child's rights and a minimum age should be applied. (Individual)
There were recurring concerns raised around the role of the Named Person as set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and some comments on the Getting it right for every child approach more generally. 
[Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC)] and SHANARRI [an acronym of the eight wellbeing indicators] is rubbish as only used against parents. The named person scheme needs scrapp[ing]. (Individual)
Other organisations viewed the GIRFEC framework as a strength due to its robustness.
We would also suggest that UNCRC principles be aligned with the overarching approach of Getting It Right for Every Child and to demonstrate how well the UNCRC Principles are embedded within GIRFEC. (Organisation)
A widely-held view was children's rights should be incorporated into existing policy and law to improve clarity of how rights are relevant across sectors and topics, and to encourage robust engagement in embedding children's rights.
[Our] research shows that CRC incorporation in and of itself is significant […] The very process of incorporation raises awareness of children's rights and the CRC in government and civil society. In countries where there has been incorporation (Belgium, Norway and Spain), our research showed that children were more likely to be perceived as rights holders and that there was a culture of respect for children's rights. (Organisation)
Among the majority in favour of the Action Plan, there was a group who called for greater focus on evaluating how children's rights are performing in Scotland. Often, they focused on measurement to identify best practice and areas of improvement.
Individuals and organisations proposed a clearer feedback mechanism to make sure that children's rights were enforced by making the reporting of their violations from children easier.
The creation of a valid and reliable survey instrument for young people to complete would allow for national baseline measures to be created, for progress over time to be noticed, and for local authorities and schools themselves to use to gauge where gaps are needing to be addressed. (Individual)
[Ensure] that there is a mechanism for appeal when a child feels their rights have been violated. (Individual)
Respondents desired greater clarity of the expectations of the Action Plan. They suggested using external bodies' frameworks to go into greater detail about what best practice in children's rights looks likes, whilst attempting to do so impartially.
Rather than having a summary of initiatives, it would be useful for the Scottish Government to map out specific actions against each Article of the UNCRC. This would provide greater clarity about progress towards tangible change rather than a list of initiatives and outline where improvements are required in terms of realising children's rights. (Organisation)
Evaluation and enforcement of the Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA)
Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIAs) (the focus of Action 4 in the consultation) were well-known among organisations but there were calls for these assessments to be used more frequently and more user-friendly.
Both organisations and SurveyMonkey respondents expressed a desire for more CRWIAs to be carried out. Some suggested making CRWIAs a legal requirement under certain conditions, such as where an issue led to explicit concerns about adherence with the UNCRC.
If it is clear the CRWIAs are not being used regularly enough or in the correct fashion the Scottish Government could consider making these a requirement with statutory guidance that outlines how they should be completed. (Organisation)
We hope that, where an issue directly relates to UNCRC concerns, a CRWIA will be undertaken as a matter of course, assessing both the impact of implementing new policy/practice and the impact if no change is made. (Organisation)
Organisations expressed a disappointment that CRWIAs are not used as frequently as they ought to be.
We have been disappointed that the CRWIA has not been used more widely since its introduction. (Organisation)
Organisations, although supportive of CRWIAs, wanted them to be pushed to more bodies and to be more user-friendly, especially as they concerned children and young people. There were related calls for more guidance for CRWIA users.
The current CRWIA would benefit from being simplified to make the CRWIA process more accessible and effective and in turn inform better rights-based policymaking. (Organisation)
CRWIAs need to be streamlined and easy to use – they also need to be promoted more widely amongst all public bodies who work with children. (Organisation)
We would also advocate for clear guidance to support policy makers carrying out CRWIAs. They should be provided with information on what a good CRWIA looks like, how it is structured and when it should be carried out. They also should be provided with written guidance to help make CRWIAs more accessible. This will ensure that children, young people and families can engage with these and become more involved in the policy making process. (Organisation)
One respondent focused on assessment publish times and called for them to be shorter.
Based on our research, [we recommend] that the Scottish Government […] ensures CRWIAs are published within two weeks of being submitted to the central team. (Organisation)