Children and young people's voices matter: progress report - January 2020

Report on progress made on the actions agreed at the third annual meeting of Cabinet members and children and young people on 5 March 2019.

Progress On Agreed Actions

Children and Young People’s Rights

1 We are committed to listening to children and young people’s views and taking account of their views, as part of the Year of Young People 2018 legacy.

Co-production is when people who are working in organisations (like the Scottish Government) work with children and young people on an equal basis to make positive change. For example, they could work together on developing a new policy or plan, or design a new service together.

Strategic approach to participation

We have started to develop a strategic approach to participation (covering 0-18 years but up to 26 years for those who are care experienced). Our approach is set out in our Action Plan on Progressing the Human Rights of Children 2018-21. We want to make it the norm that children and young people’s views are listened to when decisions are being made that affect them.

We have volunteers for our four working groups (Strategic, Resource, Access and Research) to help us develop this approach. They come from organisations working with children and young people, local authorities, health and universities.

Our Research group started first and met three times – in March, June and September 2019. A smaller group was also set up to help us. It met three times with six young people attending one of the meetings. A researcher also worked with us for three months (June to September 2019).

The group looked at existing guidance and research on children and young people’s participation in decision-making, practice examples and policy areas that have asked children and young people their views on different issues.

They agreed that we would develop a webpage on children and young people’s participation in decision-making on the Scottish Government website. This webpage will be for those people who have to listen to children and young people’s views when they are making decisions, such as when they are making new policies or laws or designing new services. It will provide information, guidance and support on children and young people’s participation in decision-making.

The Access group has now started and held its first meeting on 8 October. It will look at how we can make sure more children and young people have their views listened to when decisions are being made. They will also look at different methods that we can use so that children and young people are able to participate – such as digital media. Children and young people will be involved in this group’s work.

We have given funding to Young Scot, who are working with Children in Scotland, to co-produce the strategic approach to participation (along with the children’s rights awareness raising programme – see Action 4). They will work with children and young people aged 3 to 18. This work started on 1 August 2019 and will continue until 31 July 2020. Children and young people will work closely with all our working groups.

We hope to publish the Year of Young People evaluation report over the coming months. This will help to inform the strategic approach to participation.

More information about our progress on this action can be found in our recently published Progress Report on ‘Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018 – 2021’.


This year we held a number of events where we engaged and listened to children and young people’s voices on different issues. One example is the second First Minister’s Question Time (FMQT): Next Generation, run by YouthLink Scotland and Children in Scotland. This took place in April 2019 and over 100 children and young people took part. They asked the First Minister questions covering a range of topics, including climate change, Brexit and social media.

We also listened to children and young people’s views on the model of incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law as part of our consultation on this issue (see Action 3 for more detail). The Scottish Youth Parliament held a Discussion Day in Edinburgh on 16 July to gather the views of young people. 43 MSYPs from 23 local authorities attended. The questions within the consultation were broken down into a format that young people could understand and the session was interactive and engaging.

The Children’s Parliament delivered two workshops to gather the views of children. These took place in Edinburgh on 11 July and in Aberdeen on 16 July. 22 children were involved (aged from 10 to 14) from five local authorities across Scotland. The workshops explored children’s experiences, views and ideas on incorporation of the UNCRC, embedding rights in public services, and what to do if children’s rights were not respected.

The findings from the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Discussion Day and the Children’s Parliament’s workshops, were fed back to the Scottish Government through the organisations’ responses to the consultation.

We are committed to engaging with members of youth organisations at senior levels, including with the Executive Team, building on the success of their recent engagement with the Scottish Youth Parliament. We will consider further engagement opportunities, which will be taken forward in 2020.

Schools and Learning

In 2018/19, we formed the Scottish Learner Panel, a group of 30 children and young people aged 3 to 18 who were supported by Young Scot, the Scottish Youth Parliament, Children’s Parliament and Children in Scotland. This marked the beginning of our work to formalise children and young people’s involvement in the education policy and decision-making process.

The panel was developed to ensure a more structured approach to gathering children and young people’s views on national education policy, challenge assumptions and influence the priorities for Scottish education policy – by gathering a greater breadth of their views and ideas.

The Scottish Learner Panel was evaluated in autumn 2019. We are working with partner organisations to build on the learning and success of the panel’s first year, to continue the project and ensure it becomes a long term addition to our work in education. This will make sure that children and young people aged 3-18 can influence policy priorities and activity and have an equal voice alongside educators and parents in Scottish education.

Pupil participation is also included within a new joint Scottish Government/COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) agreement on education reform and has formed a key part of the Scottish Government’s Education Reform Programme.

This has led to the development of ‘Learners’ guidance, published by Education Scotland in summer 2019 as a working draft. This will be reviewed in summer 2020. The guidance sets out the key principles, considerations and work, which must be carried out to ensure that the voices of children and young people form a key part of decision-making in education settings.

These principles are supported by other guidance produced by Education Scotland on learner participation in education settings – to help schools and early years settings develop an understanding of learner participation and plan for implementation.

Scottish Government policy making

The Children’s Parliament, Scottish Youth Parliament, Young Scot and Children in Scotland have worked with different teams in the Scottish Government over the past year to ensure that children and young people’s voices are heard as policies and laws are developed on different topics. Annex A gives an idea of some of the areas that they have been involved in.

Children and young people from other organisations have also helped us develop policies. For example, we have been working with LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament on the implementation of the LGBT inclusive education recommendations. Both organisations are part of the group that oversees this work.

Another example is the A Way Home Scotland Coalition, set up by youth homelessness charity the Rock Trust. This Coalition is made up of a number of organisations from across Scotland, including LGBT Youth Scotland, Aff the Streets, Barnardo’s Scotland and WhoCares?Scotland. Its aim is to end youth homelessness in Scotland by working together. They published Improving Care Leavers Housing Pathway in November. They also worked with WhoCares?Scotland to listen to the voices of care experienced young people, whose voices contributed to the development of the care leavers pathway. The Coalition is continuing its work to develop ways to prevent other young people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

This will include co-producing a youth work strategy that puts children and young people at its core.

We are working with YouthLink Scotland to develop a youth work strategy. We hope to launch a consultation on the draft strategy in late spring 2020.

A young people’s group has been set up to help us with the co-production of the youth work strategy. This group has been involved in reviewing the previous youth work strategy. They met in October when they created some consultation materials. They are now helping to plan a youth work strategy event, which will take place at the end of January 2020.

25 consultation events, supported through Scottish Government funding and organised by YouthLink Scotland, have taken place across the country to engage young people and youth workers in their own environment. Many of these events were held by local authorities and national youth work organisations. Others were held by young people themselves. Over 1500 young people and youth workers have been involved.

There have been a range of events taking place, which targeted all young people – including young people who are seldom heard. Some of these events have been one off events. Others have involved groups hosting a series of events in different areas of Scotland and across different groups (e.g. carers). A wide range of young people between the ages of 12 and 25 have been involved. These have included LGBT groups, carers, equality and religious groups (including a specific event led by InterFaithScotland) and Island communities (Shetland and Orkney ran their own events). Young people have also come from areas with differing amounts of deprivation, including those from the most deprived areas of Scotland. YouthLink Scotland is currently receiving reports about the 25 events which have taken place.

Information gathered from these events will be discussed with the national youth work strategy strategic group in early January. All the information gathered will then be used to present a proposal of “Key Themes Emerging” to the Scottish Government. This will highlight the youth work sector’s priorities for youth work in Scotland. We will carry out more engagement and make further changes to the draft strategy before its launch in late spring.

2 We will consider resourcing for participation of children and young people, including examining current funding streams, to ensure that participation is sustainable. In doing so, we will consider how national approaches to participation are reflected in the local structures which can facilitate participation.

We are looking at what money is available to support children and young people’s participation in the Scottish Government as well as in local areas across Scotland. However, we are aware that there may be difficulties in making sure that the money is spent in the most useful way and that local decision-making is included.

During the autumn we carried out a mapping exercise across the Scottish Government on funding that was spent on participation of children and young people over the last two financial years (2018-19 and 2019-20). We are currently examining this information. It will be useful evidence for the Resource group of the Strategic Approach to Participation, which we hope will start to meet in 2020.

We are also looking at funding that is available for participation of children and young people outside the Scottish Government.

We had to reschedule a meeting to discuss youth work funding that was planned in early November with the Deputy First Minister, YouthLink Scotland and a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament. It will now take place in January 2020. A separate meeting took place between YouthLink Scotland and the Deputy First Minister to discuss youth work in local authorities on 11 December.

3 Building on the Programme for Government 2018-2019 commitment, Ministers announced their intention to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a human rights treaty with a list of rights for all children and young people. To help make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up, the Scottish Government is absolutely committed to incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law by the end of this Parliamentary session in spring 2021. Incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law means children’s and young people’s rights are legally protected and if necessary children, and people acting on their behalf, can defend their rights in the Scottish courts.

We carried out a 14 week public consultation from 22 May to 28 August, which asked for views on the model of incorporation that will deliver the best outcomes for children, young people and families in Scotland. We received 162 consultation responses and published an independent analysis of these responses on 20 November 2019.

We also carried out a range of meetings and events over the summer to help us in gathering views on the model of incorporation. We held meetings with officials, Ministers and 47 organisations, representing a range of sectors. We also funded seven events in partnership with organisations, including the Scottish Youth Parliament, Young Scot, Children in Scotland, Children 1st, Children’s Parliament and the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability, and engaged with over 180 children and young people.

As well as the consultation, we set up the UNCRC Working Group. Its purpose was to gather relevant expert knowledge from professionals working in our legal system, children’s rights sector (including Together and UNICEF), public authorities (including local authorities, the police, health services), parenting organisations and universities. The Group met seven times from 25 June to 21 October 2019. We will receive their report soon. Their work has helped us to develop our policy on UNCRC incorporation and will continue to do so over the coming year.

The consultation responses show that it is widely recognised that incorporating the UNCRC will significantly advance the protection and realisation of children’s rights in Scotland. There is also wide support for directly and fully incorporating all of the rights set out in the UNCRC. Children have said that they want to have the same rights here in Scotland as all children around the world.

While there was some limited support for a ‘suite of Scottish Rights approach’, we have clearly heard that this approach carries a risk that rights are diluted or changed, even if this were unintended. Therefore, the Deputy First Minister announced on World Children’s Day 2019, the 30th Anniversary of the UNCRC, that we will not take this path.

We will seek to incorporate the Convention in full and directly – using the language of the Convention – in every case possible. Our only limitation will be the limit of the powers of this Parliament. As a result, sadly, some parts of the Convention – for example, the provision on military recruitment – are reserved and cannot be incorporated by this Parliament. This means that only the UK Government can change the law on them and they cannot be incorporated into our law.

However, we expect that we can incorporate the vast majority of the UNCRC’s provisions. The Bill will also make provision to allow incorporation of those parts of the Convention currently beyond our powers into our domestic law if – and when – the powers of the Scottish Parliament change in the future. This will make sure that the rights contained in the UNCRC are given the highest protection and respect possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

This approach will mean that, for the first time, the UNCRC is directly built into Scots law. This represents a huge step forward for the protection of children’s rights in Scotland. The Bill will aim to ensure that there is a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland. This will mean that children, young people and their families will experience public bodies consistently acting to uphold the rights of all children in Scotland.

Every devolved body, every health board, every council – and the Scottish Government itself – will be legally obliged to respect children’s rights. And, if they don’t, children and young people will be able to use the courts to enforce their rights.

More information about our progress on this action can be found in our recently published Progress Report on ‘Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018 – 2021’.

4 We will raise awareness and understanding of children’s rights across all age groups in Scotland (e.g. Article 42) through our co-production programme.

In April 2019, we held five Rights Cafes in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Stirling and Dundee. 180 children, young people and professionals attended. The aim of these events was to see whether there were any gaps, or areas for development, in people’s awareness of children’s rights, which could be addressed through this programme. Feedback highlighted parents/carers as a group where gaps in awareness of children’s rights may exist. It also told us that there needed to be a culture change across Scotland if children’s rights were to be truly embedded. This feedback informed the development of the next phase of the programme.We have started to co-produce our three-year programme to raise awareness of children’s rights across all sectors of Scottish society, including children and young people themselves.

We carried out an online resource mapping exercise between March and July 2019. We asked professionals and organisations from across the children and young people’s sector to let us know about existing children’s rights awareness raising resources, programmes and training packages. We received 112 responses.

We then appointed Young Scot, in partnership with Children in Scotland, to work with a group of children and young people to develop a range of resources through co-production. The purpose of these resources is to help to raise awareness of children’s rights across all sectors of Scottish society. The children and young people will also help to develop the strategic approach to participation (see Action 1). They started in August 2019 and will continue until 31 July 2020.

In September 2019, 63 children and young people applied to take part in the co-production group, which we have called “Activate Your Rights”. 20 children and young people (aged 8 to 18 years) were selected. Half of them are from seldom heard groups and half have never taken part in a national programme previously. They come from across Scotland, from Argyll and Bute to East Lothian and South Lanarkshire to Orkney. We will also work with younger children (aged 3 to 8 years).

The children and young people in the “Activate Your Rights” group will also carry out another resource mapping exercise. Together with the results of the initial exercise, the children and young people will be able to identify any gaps and develop resources to fill them.

Raising awareness of children’s rights amongst public bodies with duties under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 is also critical to making rights real for children, young people and their families.

A public body is an organisation for which either the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament is responsible and with whom they have a direct relationship. This covers organisations such as the police, fire and health services, local government, and others.

We have offered support meetings to all public authorities (such as local authorities) who have a reporting duty under Part 1, section 2 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 – to support the implementation of children’s rights by public bodies across Scotland. These duties require public authorities listed in Schedule 1 of the Act, to publish a report every three years on the steps that they have taken in that period to secure better or further effect of the UNCRC requirements within their areas of responsibility. So far we have supported 14 public authorities and have carried out development sessions with 4 local authorities.

We continue to work alongside Education Scotland to strengthen awareness and understanding of children’s rights through a range of activities, which support the development of a rights-based culture and ethos in schools and early learning and childcare centres. Education Scotland have updated their Recognising and Realising Children’s Rights online resource, which supports professional learning. They are also rolling out the ‘Young Leaders of Learning Programme’ which seeks to ensure children and young people are actively involved in ongoing self-evaluation activities, which leads to improvement.

More information about our progress on this action can be found in our recently published Progress Report on ‘Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018 – 2021’.



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