Taking a children's human rights approach: guidance

Guidance to provide information and resources to support public authorities and other organisations to implement a children’s human rights approach.

4. Children’s human rights approach

This section provides information and suggestions that may be useful for any organisation which wishes to implement a children’s human rights approach and is looking for ideas on how to do this. It outlines aspects of a children’s human rights approach with a view to providing resources and information on a range of topics that public authorities may find useful to consider when seeking to give better and further effect to child rights. While there is no legal requirement for public authorities to follow these suggestions, they are intended to promote good practice.

4.1 What is a children’s human rights approach?

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has developed a children’s human rights approach which is “a principled and practical framework for working with children, grounded in the UNCRC. It is about placing the UNCRC at the core of planning and service delivery and integrating children’s human rights into every aspect of decision-making, policy and practice.” The Welsh model was developed with public authorities in Wales in mind and takes account of themes consistently highlighted as integral to a children’s human rights approach.

The model is made up of five principles:

  • Embedding: Putting children’s human rights at the core of planning and the delivery of services that affect children and young people
  • Equality and non-discrimination: Ensuring that every child or young person has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents
  • Empowerment: Giving children the knowledge and confidence to use their rights and hold organisations and individuals that affect their lives to account
  • Participation: Listening to children and taking their views seriously
  • Accountability: Organisations and individuals should be accountable to children for the decisions and actions which affect their lives

The following sections introduce the five principles of the Welsh model, which public authorities may wish to consider when deepening their rights based practice. However, it must be kept in mind that these sections are not a comprehensive overview of what a children’s human rights approach is or can be, and only represent a selection of elements. Public authorities are encouraged to find further sources of information on other aspects of taking a children’s human rights approach.

4.2 Embedding children’s rights

This section shares two key areas of business which public authorities may wish to consider, to support them to take a children’s human rights approach and improve their services. The first section shares how a child rights and wellbeing impact assessment (CRWIA) can improve decision-making. The second section shares how a children’s human rights approach could lead to budget efficiencies, and shares information on child rights budgeting.

4.2.1 Decision-making

Child Rights Impact Assessments (CRIA) are internationally recognised as a means of upholding and fulfilling children’s rights in the decision-making process and are one of the general measures of implementation under the UNCRC. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends that all levels of government – national, regional and local – complete a CRIA as part of their policy development.

CRIA has many benefits including:

  • Formulation of all organisational measures would consider the potential impact on children’s rights and wellbeing
  • Children’s views are considered throughout the decision-making process and can influence decisions in accordance with needs expressed by children themselves
  • Assessment of impact is informed by existing evidence and research and informs gaps
  • Negative policy impact on children can be identified, mitigated against, and policy can be improved to uphold and advance the rights and wellbeing of children
  • Publishing CRIA increases transparency in decision-making and allows for external scrutiny of decisions by children and their representatives

Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment

The Scottish Government has developed an impact assessment which also considers wellbeing, a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA). A CRWIA is a process through which the anticipated impact of any proposed decision, including development of policies and services, on children’s human rights and wellbeing can be identified, analysed and recorded.

A CRWIA asks a range of questions to encourage and guide thinking around potential impacts. This includes questions around impact on specific groups of children, potential positive and negative impacts, and how children have been engaged to obtain their views and inform decisions made.

The Scottish Government consider the use of CRWIAs a means of upholding and respecting children’s rights.To support the implementation of CRWIA beyond the duties of Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Government created and made available a version of CRWIA for use by anyone.

Under the UNCRC Act and as specified under the Children’s Rights Scheme, Scottish Ministers will be required to prepare and publish a CRWIA (defined in section 17(1) of the Act) in certain circumstances per sections 17(2) to 17(3A) of the Act. There is no obligation on anyone other than Scottish Ministers to undertake CRWIAs, therefore, public authorities and any other body have discretion over whether they choose to do so as part of their child rights practice.

4.2.2 Budget allocation

Taking a children’s human rights approach should support you to achieve efficiencies by better understanding and meeting children’s needs and improving service delivery. Preventative approaches have been shown to improve outcomes for individuals and communities, and reduce demands on public services.[2] For example, if a front line worker is trained in taking a children’s human rights approach, a child should have a good experience of the service and this may reduce the need for support from other services. Similarly, by using a child friendly complaints process, staff should be able to address any potential issues early on and reduce any need for further escalation.

Considering children’s rights throughout the budgetary cycle, can lead to improvements in both operational efficiency (achieving the greatest impact from the resources spent) and allocative efficiency (achieving the greatest impact from the way resources were distributed).

Child rights budgeting

Child rights budgeting is a process where child’s rights respecting practice is adopted for budgetary decision making and resource prioritisation. This section sets out some principles, key considerations, and examples of practice for public authorities who may wish to further embed child rights in budget processes.

Article 4 of the UNCRC provides that all public authorities shall “undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures of implementation” to realise the rights of children. As an approach, child rights budgeting (CRB) is commonly considered and outlined as a key measure of implementation of Article 4. The generation, allocation, and expenditure of local public budgets, is relevant to the implementation of the UNCRC, fulfilling children’s rights, and improving the lived experiences of children. Public authorities may be aware of a range of budgeting techniques currently in use and being explored in Scotland, and budgeting for children’s rights can build upon the many principles and practices already in place. This section of the guidance aims to provide an optional and complementary approach to existing budgetary practices already in place across public authorities in Scotland.

All human rights, including children’s rights under the UNCRC, require the mobilisation of public resources to ensure they are respected, protected, and fulfilled. Whether this is through funding of rights based policies and programmes or through the allocation of resources for public institutions such as schools, hospitals, or an effective criminal court system, rights realisation is based, to a large extent, on its resourcing. Human rights budgeting is a process of developing, executing, and analysing a public budget in a way that is sensitive to and reflective of human rights standards and obligations.

Budgeting for children’s rights is best understood as applying the principles and obligations associated with wider human rights budgeting to best realise the rights of children. Child rights budgeting is primarily concerned with ensuring children’s rights are considered throughout the budget cycle. This can raise questions about the extent to which the budget set is sufficient to realise children’s rights in line with the UNCRC, but also whether the prioritisation of

resources demonstrably prioritises delivering children’s rights. General Comment 19 from the Committee emphasises that financial resources should be “mobilised, allocated, and spent in an accountable, effective, efficient, equitable, participatory, transparent, and sustainable manner”.[3]

Budgeting for children’s rights raises considerations such as:

1. How an overall budget is formulated and ensuring there are enough resources to deliver services and programmes essential to upholding children’s rights

2. Whether (and how) allocations within the budget prioritise closing the gap in the enjoyment of rights between different groups of children

3. How the processes adopted at differing stages of the budget cycle align with human rights principles such as meaningful participation, non-discrimination, and accountability

4. The extent to which available resources are applied on the basis of ‘best value principles such as reducing waste and ensuring best value duties are implemented throughout the expenditure of the budget

5. The extent to which the expenditure of budget allocations is relevant to children’s economic, social and cultural rights and careful consideration of any possible redirection for underspend in other service areas for fulfilling children’s rights

6. Whether (and how) children’s rights outcomes are being measured, linked to, and achieved by allocation of financial resources

7. Whether adequate resources are in place for transitional services which will allow children to be properly supported in their move from children’s to adult services

8. How children are meaningfully involved in the budgetary decision making processes

General Comment 19 explains what this means for child rights budgeting:

1. Respecting children’s rights through refraining from interfering with the enjoyment of children’s rights, discriminating against certain groups of children or by diverting resources away from existing programmes that play a key role in fulfilling the rights of children in Scotland

2. Protecting children’s rights through the prevention of interference with the rights guaranteed by the UNCRC Act

3. Fulfilling children’s rights through providing budgetary allocations for services essential to the realisation of children’s rights

The economic, social and cultural rights that apply to all children are provided through Articles 24-32 of the UNCRC. At international level, these rights are guided by the concept of progressive realisation (see section 2.7 for a fuller explanation of this concept). While under no obligation to do so, public authorities may wish to consider the concept of progressive realisation for budgetary decision making to ensure that they give further effect to the rights of children. There may be clear advantages for doing so.

Applying a rights based approach to budgetary decision making can provide a clear framework from which to demonstrate active consideration of and links between public resources and children’s rights realisation.

As a fiscal framework, children’s rights budgeting focuses directly on ensuring the generation, allocation, and expenditure of a budget is directed by delivering upon children’s rights outcomes. Children’s rights budgeting can be used to identify and assess if the current approach to resourcing is the most effective and efficient way to meet children’s rights requirements.

Implementing a child’s rights respecting budget cycle

The core principles for child rights budgeting are non-discrimination, participation, accountability and transparency (non-discrimination, participation, and accountability are covered in sections 4.3, 4.5, and 4.6 of this guidance). Transparency of budgetary information should be viewed with regard to Article 13, children and young people’s right ‘to seek, receive and impart information’. It can be considered for both the publication of specific budgetary documents in a timely manner and the accessibility, including child friendly and easy read versions (see section 4.3.1 of this guidance). It is a prerequisite for meaningful participation and can include for example, pre- budget statements, strategic spending priorities and decisions, enacted budgets, and internal audit reports.

Implementing children’s rights budgeting in Scotland is best viewed as a continual process, not a one-off event. Public authorities in Scotland complete a rolling budget cycle each year in which the budget is formulated (planned), approved (enacted), executed, and subject to oversight and audit (follow up).

Budget planning

When planning their budget, public authorities may wish to include an assessment of the current state of children’s services within the public authority area (see 5.1.4 on Children’s Services plans) and where priorities can be identified to ensure the budget is used effectively for respecting, protecting, and fulfilling children’s rights. This is likely best captured at the very beginning of the new budget cycle within strategic planning for the coming years. Particular attention may be given to assessing children in vulnerable situations with plans designed to ensure the budget adequately resources services and programmes essential to fulfilling their rights. To achieve this, international guidance[4] on children’s rights budgeting sets out key considerations relevant to public authorities within the assessment phase as:

1. Ensuring that information on the situation of children is disaggregated in a way that allows the consideration of different groups of children and give effect to the principle of non-discrimination.

2. Make user-friendly information and data on the situation of children in the public authority area available in a timely manner to public officials, civil society, and children.

3. Where possible, investigate past and potential impacts of budgetary decisions on children and young people through conducting internal audits, evaluations, and studies of the impact on children of past resource generation, allocation, and expenditure.

4. The assessment phase should take into account the views of children and young people as well as those who are working with or caring for them.

Budget planning should be based on reliable, timely, and disaggregated data on children’s rights in Scotland. Linking budgetary allocations to specific children’s rights outcomes can provide information on which budgetary allocations directly target and indirectly affect children’s rights.

Budget approval

Best practice indicates that locally elected officials and decision makers should have a clear understanding and consideration of how budget proposals within the public authority aim to advance children’s rights and improve children’s wellbeing and how the views of children are reflected in these decisions. Adequate time and resources for effective scrutiny of budget proposals in light of children’s rights obligations are useful in this regard. Public authorities, at the approval stage of the budget, may wish to consider:

1. The extent to which there is adequate access to information about the situation of children within the public authority area that is easy to understand.

2. Sufficient time within the budget process to receive budget proposals, include children in the review and debate of the proposals, and adopt amendments where necessary.

3. The extent to which principles of process have been in place through formulating the budget, e.g., in regard to participation of relevant stakeholders, including civic society organisations, child advocates, and children themselves.

Budget execution

In executing the budget across the year, public authorities may wish to adopt and maintain transparent and efficient public finance mechanisms and systems to ensure value for money when goods and services are purchased to advance children’s rights. Executing the budget efficiently may be possible with the help of assessments to understand and remedy where ineffective or inefficient expenditure of the budget takes place. Ensuring efficiency should not compromise the availability or quality of the goods or services procured for advancing children’s rights.

Established budgetary processes recommend that reporting should be conducted internally throughout expenditure of the budget and that in-year budget reports are made publicly available in a timely and accessible manner. These reports can enable civic society and children themselves to monitor the outcomes of public spending. Public authorities may decide that the reports provide clear information on how children’s rights have been progressed as intended at the approval stage of the budget. Where budgetary lines have been revised, public authorities can assess and make available information on how the revision of expenditure may impact children and young people’s rights realisation.

Budget oversight

Public authorities may wish to conduct a comprehensive assessment of budget needs and establish transparently where revenue has been collected and what expenditures have been made that affected positively or negatively on children’s rights realisation. Public authorities may decide to work closely with civic society, as well as children and young people in Scotland, to enable affected groups to make contributions to the evaluation and analysis conducted within budget oversight. This would require budgetary information at the end of the year to be made publicly available in a transparent and timely manner to facilitate meaningful participation.

Finally, end of year oversight of public resource generation, allocation, and expenditure related to children’s rights can be used to inform the assessment phase of the upcoming year’s budget formulation. Budget oversight for public authorities can provide an evidence base for future decision-making and resource prioritisation for the advancement of children’s rights.

Participatory budgeting with children in Derry and Strabane

When public funds became available for community projects in Derry and Strabane, their Child Friendly partnership invited young people to share their ideas for how it should be spent through a participatory budgeting process.

Individual projects could apply for awards of up to £1,000 to be spent across eight local growth areas, to help transform local communities for the better.

The local Youth Advisory Group led the process. The group was involved in co-designing the concept, developing child friendly application forms, eligibility checks around voting and encouraging their peers to submit bids.

Children and young people got together in groups and submitted videos about their ideas for how the money should be spent. A vote was held to choose the winning videos, which included local clean-up projects, sports activities like basketball and cricket, and wellbeing initiatives.

This was the first time in Northern Ireland that a participatory budgeting process was led and co-designed by young people. This short case study demonstrates the potential advantages of bringing in young people’s voices on how money should be spent within their local area.

4.3 Equality and non-discrimination

‘Equality is about ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents, and that no child has to endure poor life chances because of discrimination’.[5] To ensure that Scotland is the best country in the world to grow up, we must treat all children and young people fairly and provide targeted support for children whose rights are at risk.

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) requires equality to be considered in all[6] functions of public authorities, including decision-making, in the design of internal and external policies and in the delivery of services, and for these issues to be kept under review. In addition, The Fairer Scotland Duty places a legal responsibility on named public bodies in Scotland to actively consider how they can reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socio-economic disadvantage, when making strategic decisions. These duties are covered briefly in section 5.1.1 of this guidance and specific guidance on the duties is available.

4.3.1 Inclusive communication

This section focuses solely on inclusive communications as a key consideration to support equality and non-discrimination and all other principles of a children’s human rights approach.

“Not every family is the same. There are some children and families needing help more than others… all children should be supported to reach their potential no matter who they are and where they come from.”

Children and Families panel member working on the Child Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework

Inclusive communication means sharing information in a way that everybody can understand, which takes into account potential barriers such as age and maturity, language, or disability. Inclusive communication supports individuals to use whatever approach best suits their needs. This applies to all types of communication: verbal, written, face-to-face, digital or online. When creating and sharing information and planning and delivering services, public authorities should consider the communication needs and preferences of children and young people, to apply an inclusive approach.[7]

Inclusive communication is an integral part of each of the five principles of the Welsh children’s rights approach and is fundamental in the implementation and embedding of rights, such as Article 2 (non-discrimination), Article 12 (right to express a view and have that view taken into account) and 42 (right to knowledge of UNCRC). Article 13 gives children and young people the right to seek, receive and impart information in a variety of formats. The Scottish Government have created an inclusive communication guide to act as an information and self assessment tool for public authorities.[8]

To experience their rights fully, children and young people should have access to information in a format that they understand. When this does not happen, there is a risk their rights are not being respected. For public services which have a direct or indirect impact on the lives of children and young people, consideration should be given to how children and young people are supported to access and understand information. Children’s inclusive communication needs are often overlooked, resulting in lengthy, text based, and complex documents.

Why is inclusive communication important?

Communication is the process of giving or exchanging information and expressing views, feelings and ideas. It helps us to connect, empathise and understand one another. In a neurodiverse world it is important to recognise that children understand information and express themselves in different ways.

Recognising the importance of inclusive communication and safe, accessible and respectful spaces where children and adults feel comfortable to share their views and work collaboratively is an essential component of supporting children to meaningfully participate and experience their rights.

Inclusive communication enables children to:

  • gain full access to services
  • understand what service providers are telling them so that the advice, guidance and information provided by the services makes sense to them
  • be understood by service providers so that they provide better quality and more effective services for children
  • have a more positive experience of services and be less likely to need to challenge service providers
  • understand if their rights are not being fully respected to allow them to challenge service providers
  • raise a complaint or provide feedback in an age appropriate way
  • maintain the motivation to access services that make positive changes to their lives.

To support all children as rights holders we must consider the most effective, accessible and inclusive ways to communicate with them recognising both collective and individual needs.

How can an inclusive communication approach be promoted and implemented?

When working with children and young people it is important to identify their communication needs and preferences as early as possible and tailor approaches to meet these needs. Inclusive communication should be applied in all situations where you are working with children e.g. sharing a new policy to running a workshop to find out about children’s views on a particular issue.

The Scottish Government sets out six principles of inclusive communication and we have adapted the principles to focus on children and young people:

1. Communication accessibility and physical accessibility are equally important

All children and young people who use public services have the right to access them on an equal basis. To make your services fully accessible means considering communication accessibility as well as physical accessibility.

2. Every community or group will include people with different communication support needs

You should presume that every group you are working with, or expect to work with, includes people with communication support needs. Inclusive communication should be considered at all times, whether providing information or planning an event, meeting or activity. Good communication practice will help you reach your target audience more effectively and allow people to access services on an equal basis.

3. Communication is a two-way process of understanding others and expressing yourself

Quality service delivery is when the service provider and person who uses the service understand each other, and the person who is using the service is able to express their needs and choices effectively. Everyone communicates differently, it may take more effort and time to ensure that the child or young person who is using the service and the service provider understand each other. You need to:

  • match your communication to the needs of the children who use the services
  • recognise and respond to the variety of ways that individuals may express themselves.

4. Be flexible in the way your service is provided

To match the way you communicate to the needs of all the people who use services, do not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It is important to consider how changes to the way services are delivered will affect the people who use them. A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work, as one system will not meet the needs of all the children who use services.

5. Effective participation of children with different communication support needs

To help you identify the full implications of service changes for all members of the community, involve children who use these services, from the beginning of the change process. Services delivered around the needs of the children who use them will be more cost effective, user-friendly and fit for purpose. It is important that children have the opportunity to participate in the change process in the same way that others can.

6. Keep trying

Even small, simple changes to the way you communicate will make a big difference to your service delivery. Some changes may take longer, but will deliver positive outcomes, resulting in cost efficiencies and better services for children.

Implementing an inclusive communication environment

The Lundy Model of Child Participation provides useful insight into how adults can create environments and interactions that facilitate children’s meaningful engagement. The elements of space and voice within the model may be of particular interest to those considering how an inclusive communication approach can be applied.[9]

It is important to be aware of the different communication needs of all children and young people including those who are seldom heard, for example: children in care, ethnic minority children, disabled children, and those who are disadvantaged or affected by poverty.[10]

“Due to our boys’ autism, we have learned to communicate in more ways than just speech. We have to be their voices so their views can be heard”

Children and Families panel member working on the Child Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework

“Adults need to realise that children are often more anxious and worried than they seem. They wrongly assume that being quiet is good behaviour. These children need your help to voice their opinions and concerns.”

Children and Families panel member working on the Child Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework

Inclusive communication case study 1: Rights Right Now!

The Scottish Government works collaboratively with children and young people to plan the national children’s rights awareness raising campaign – the story of the young people’s awareness raising subgroup.

Young People from ‘Rights Right Now!’ were invited to be part of an online subgroup and undertake research to explore communication tools and techniques that were most effective in capturing the attention of their peers. Children and young people’s communication needs and preferences were of utmost importance and an inclusive communication approach was applied from the outset.

We developed an understanding of the communication needs and preferences through conversations with the children and young people and adults who knew them well. By doing this we were able to tailor approaches to meet their needs and preferences. This applied to communication before, during and after the subgroup sessions. For example: the invitation sent to the children and young people for the subgroup was presented in a child friendly format. All elements of the subgroup were co-designed with the children and young people: the purpose and aims; the shared leadership; the culture; and session structure and pace.

Planning and preparation

  • Before the first session a ‘getting to know you’ leaflet was shared to establish relationships
  • Before each session, information was issued in a child friendly format to support young people’s understanding of the topic, the aims of the session, their role and what to expect

Inclusive communication embedded in subgroup activities

Online environment

  • Created a friendly and welcoming ethos.
  • Applied advice developed by Rights Right Now!
  • Considered factors conducive to effective communication: minimised background noise and external interruptions; checked young people’s knowledge of key features such as the mic and hands-up button; child friendly format applied to all materials shared during the session such as PowerPoint slides

Inclusive interactions

  • Adult facilitators kept cameras on and looked at the camera when speaking
  • A flexible participation approach applied to support and encourage interactions. Young people could choose whether to have cameras on or off; contribute verbally or through the chat function; or take on a listening role and submit ideas after the meeting
  • Opportunities for structured and unstructured dialogue
  • Time offered to all participants to contribute uninterrupted in a style of their choice
  • Information shared in a clear and concise way at a pace that suited young people’s needs. Adults minimised the time they spent talking
  • Used visual aids to support understanding and sharing of ideas
  • Full group paused for short periods to offer time for reflection and questions
  • Active listening ensured interactions felt safe and encouraged open sharing of opinions and ideas

Easy read approach to content-writing to support inclusive communication

An easy read document is written and designed to be understood by the audience you wish to communicate with. The approach is about communicating with children to meet their needs and preferences. This applies to all types of communication including verbal and written exchanges, in person meetings, digital content and online interactions.

Easy read versions are usually much shorter than the original text and aim to capture the main points rather than provide extensive detail. By providing key pieces of information, Easy read versions can support children’s understanding of what is in the original document and signpost readers to other sources if they wish to explore the issue further.

Preparing and publishing an Easy read version can be done in a rights respecting way, where the version is created in partnership with children, for example: co-designing materials through workshops; consulting on draft documents then editing based on children’s feedback; and regular check-ins to evaluate quality and identify areas for improvement that can be applied to future communications.

Other mediums of communication may also be considered to accompany an Easy read piece, such as a short video or animation, to explain key pieces of information. Children may be more willing to engage in watching a short, captioned video than to read an Easy read document.

4.4 Empowering children

‘Empowering means removing barriers to children’s access to information or resources that enable them to understand and exercise their rights. Empowerment is about enabling children to make choices and to affect outcomes for themselves and their families.’[11] To have a Scotland where children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled, we need to enable all children to be aware of and understand their rights. We can do this by creating and amplifying systems that enable children and young people to be empowered human rights defenders.

This section shares how public authorities may wish to raise awareness of UNCRC as part of their children’s human rights approach.

4.4.1 Raising awareness of UNCRC and children’s rights

“To be useful, rights must be known and understood… children must be aware of child rights, understand the concepts, and be able to put them into practice” (UNICEF, 2022).

For cultural and systemic change to happen in Scotland, it is critical that rights holders, those who represent, and support rights holders and public services are fully aware of the UNCRC, and how the rights relate to the lives of children. Raising awareness of the UNCRC is a significant part of influencing the cultural shift we hope to see in Scotland, it can support children to seek access to justice and set the foundations required for progressive realisation of the rights of children.

Often referred to in practice as ‘raising awareness of rights’ or ‘knowledge of rights’, Article 42 of the UNCRC states the following:

“States Parties [which includes public authorities within its definition] undertake to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike.”

In 2024 the Scottish Government will be leading a national awareness raising programme. Working with partners, it will deliver small and meaningful pieces of awareness raising work that interconnect with targeted audiences, leading to an evolving national programme. Collectively they will ensure that children’s rights become more familiar in public life leading to a culture shift in their favour.

Awareness raising with the workforce, rights holders and their advocates

“Young people should be aware of the UNCRC as this treaty empowers them to understand how these rights apply to them in all areas of their lives and to exercise their rights when they are not being met. It also enables children and young people to have their voices heard so that they are listened to and taken seriously.” (Young person, 14, East Dunbartonshire, Young Scot).

To meet Article 42, to “undertake to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike”, public authorities may wish to consider what arrangements are currently in place to support UNCRC awareness across their workforce, and steps required to address gaps. Whilst all members of the workforce should have the awareness, skills and knowledge required to raise awareness of the UNCRC with rights holders and their advocates, it may require certain individuals to develop an enhanced level of awareness and experience.

Awareness raising work with rights holders could consider a number of factors, such as their age, previous knowledge of their rights, experiences, available resources to build understanding, and preferred ways of learning. Awareness raising should be both universal and targeted, depending on the public authority and the groups of children affected, directly or otherwise, by the range of functions delivered. When rights are embedded in their everyday experiences and interactions, children and young people, as active learners, become increasingly aware of their rights and are empowered to put them into practice. An example of this could be a child’s participation at school in UNICEF’s Rights Respecting School Award or Children’s Parliament’s Dignity in School programme, which bring rights into learning.

It’s also important to consider awareness raising with parents, carers and family members as they will speak up for their children and make sure their rights are being met. They do this every day, for example when they chase up a medical appointment for their child or when they talk to teachers about how to support their child’s access to learning. The Scottish Government have published a UNCRC guide for parents, carers and families which may support your awareness raising work.

Public authorities may wish to consider the intention behind raising awareness. The aim is for rights holders to not only become aware of the UNCRC and the rights afforded to them under the Act, but to be able to identify when their rights are not being respected, protected and fulfilled and be empowered to seek redress, through a number of means, should they believe their rights are being breached.

Awareness raising work is active work. It is not merely concerned with passively sharing information from one party to another, it is about informing so that attitudes, behaviours and norms are changed.

Awareness raising work that is informed by, led or co-produced by children and young people serves as a lived example of Article 12 (right to express a view and have that view taken into account) and Article 42 (knowledge of rights) being applied in practice. Often, when awareness raising work is led by children and young people, it is particularly relevant and meaningful and has powerful impact. The Make It Right Campaign (see Raising awareness case study 1 below, p32), led by North Lanarkshire Council was a child led awareness raising campaign.

In addition to children and public authorities being aware of children’s rights, it is also critical that anyone involved in the upbringing of the child is also aware and able to advocate on their child’s behalf if required. This is particularly relevant for certain groups of children, such as those who are non-verbal or who require advocacy for a variety of reasons. Anyone with parental rights and responsibilities will benefit from an enhanced awareness and understanding of child rights.

For children and young people whose rights are at risk, raising awareness is critical. Organisations and agencies that have a close working relationship with specific groups are best placed to lead targeted work as many of the traditional routes for awareness raising would not be sufficient.

Undertaking work to raise awareness

Raising awareness can happen through a wide range of methods and success lies in having clarity at the start about what the awareness raising work is trying to achieve. Public authorities may wish to consider the following key areas to explore when setting out on new awareness raising work.

The System

The first stage of any awareness raising campaign is to understand the current system you are operating in: What resources are already available? What is working or not working and why? What aspects of the UNCRC are we raising awareness of and why?

Research and Knowledge

Source any available research findings to help understand the problem or issue to inform planning: Has any relevant research been conducted? Can you conduct some research yourself or speak to as many different people as possible who are connected to the issue? Who is the audience, is it universal or targeted? Is it children, their carers and advocates, members of the workforce?


Your messaging and campaign will be stronger and more effective if you work with other stakeholders: Who can you work with to gather a wide range of perspectives connected to the issue? Can you form a network or steering group to help inform the planning and delivery of the work?


Including the voice of lived experience in the early stages of planning is essential: In what ways can you work with children and young people, their parents, carers and families to help inform your message and wider campaign?


Create clear time parameters as well as some contingency; the process of raising awareness can be lengthy. How much time do you have allocated for the planning stage? Is the campaign time bound?


What are the most relevant and impactful platforms? There are multiple methods to maximise the reach:

1. social media, blogs, videos, music and podcasts

2. physical resources e.g. booklets, books, leaflets, badges and t-shirts

3. events e.g. workshops, exhibitions, discussions, debates, seminars, festivals and conferences.

4. community hubs e.g. schools, doctors surgeries, health centres, community centres and libraries

5. universal messaging e.g. television, radio, newspapers and billboards

6. arts e.g. spoken word, music, theatre and comedy


Having an event either online or in person to launch the campaign or resource can help with promotion and create excitement and interest. Could you write a press release, or generate media interest by other means?


How would you monitor the impact of the awareness raising work and measure whether you have achieved your goal? Could you run a pre and post-test survey or interviews? Could you measure social media interest/engagement?

Examples of awareness raising in practice

Raising awareness case study 1: Make It Right Campaign

The Make It Right Campaign was developed by North Lanarkshire Children’s Services Partnership which worked with a group of nine young people to create a children’s rights awareness raising campaign. The purpose was to inform other young people about their rights and for adults and public sector organisations to help safeguard their rights. They wanted to shine a light on life without children’s rights, encourage young people to know what their rights are and signpost them to resources.

The young people were involved in all stages of the production: the campaign concept and strapline, defining the audience, outlining the objectives, and deciding where and how it would be marketed. They also appeared in awareness raising videos and contributed to every aspect of the marketing and communications campaign, working closely with North Lanarkshire Council’s Corporate Communications and Community Learning and Development teams.

Michael (16), who helped with the campaign, said:

“We identified what we thought other people wanted to know about children’s rights and what our message to them about UNCRC was. I enjoyed the experience and some of the things I haven’t done before like planning, audio and filming, have introduced me to different skills.”

The campaign was run on local billboards, social media sites and on YouTube.

Councillor Angela Campbell, Convener of Education and Families said:

“The work by the young people involved in this project is simply outstanding. It has raised an important issue in that we as partners, must ensure that we do everything we can to promote and support children’s rights every day, as we deliver services to people and communities across North Lanarkshire.”

More information about the campaign can be found on North Lanarkshire Council’s website.

Raising awareness case study 2: UNCRC Parents’ Booklet

In 2022 a new booklet was co-produced by parents’ organisations and the Scottish Government’s Children’s Rights Unit, who all recognised a gap in resources for parents, carers and families around children rights.

Taking a systems thinking approach, a network of stakeholders committed to raising awareness of UNCRC was formed. They began by gathering all current research that considered what parents knew and understood about the UNCRC as well as speaking to parents and families across Scotland. The network then conducted their own research with more families, focusing on parents of children whose rights were at risk. They were asked what they knew about the subject, what they wanted to know and how they wanted to receive the messaging.

The network then spent time discussing what tone the booklet should take, how they wanted parents to feel after reading it, and the content. They worked with an advertising and digital agency to write the booklet and tested it with parents throughout the process.

Once completed, the booklet was made available in hard copies and digital format.

Raising awareness case study 3: Activate Your Rights (#AYR)

In September 2019 the Scottish Government funded Young Scot in partnership with Children in Scotland to create materials with the aim of raising the awareness and understanding of children’s rights to all sectors of society in Scotland. This was to meet the requirements of Scottish Government as set out in The Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan, 2018-2021. The new resources were co-produced by 20 children and young people from across Scotland, with a range of lived experience.

The programme created a facilitators pack to be used by people working with children and young people, to help explore knowledge of rights through fun, interactive, age appropriate activities. The activities are themed around Rights Awareness, Rights in Action and Rights Resilience.

4.5 Participation

The term ‘participation’ is broadly used to describe a range of practice and methodologies, which enable children and young people to be heard in decision making. It is an important mechanism to ensure that decision makers listen, communicate, and consider the views of children and young people on all aspects of their lives. Children and young people have the right to be involved in any decisions that affect them whether that be national, local or individual.

Under Article 12 of theUNCRC, ‘every child and young person who is capable of forming their own views has the right to express those views freely, either themselves or through a nominated person such as a trusted adult, in all matters affecting them, with those views being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child and young person. In particular, consideration should be given to how to get views where children and young people’s views are not known on a matter that is likely to have an impact on them.’ This is particularly pertinent where the child is involved in judicial or administrative proceedings.

Participation is a key part of recognising, respecting, and promoting children’s rights. The UN Committee of the Rights of the Child developed General Comment 12 (Paragraph 134) which gives more information about the right to participate in decision-making (Article 12), including in specific types of decisions such as separation of parents, custody, care and adoption and health care. The Committee makes a distinction between the right to participate in decision-making as an individual child and the right to participate in decision-making as applied to a group of children (e.g. a class of schoolchildren, the children in a neighbourhood, the children of a country, disabled children, or girls). As well as giving children the right to participate in decision-making in any judicial and administrative proceeding affecting the individual children, the views expressed by children may add relevant perspectives and experience and should be considered in decision-making, policymaking and preparation of laws and/or measures (as well as their evaluation) in all relevant contexts of children’s lives.

There are examples of legislation with specific duties to seek and take into account children’s views. For example, the Education (Additional Support for Leaning) (Scotland) Act 2004 places a duty on education authorities to seek and take into account the views of children and young people, unlessthe education authority is satisfied that they lack capacity to express a view.

General Comment 12 sets out nine basic requirements for effective participation. Effective participation must be:

  • Transparent and informative
  • Voluntary
  • Respectful
  • Relevant to children and young people
  • Child friendly
  • Inclusive
  • Supported by training
  • Safe and sensitive to risk
  • Accountable

For more detail see section D of General Comment 12.

Why is participation important?

Participation gives individuals the opportunity to have their say on a range of issues, to shape decisions and create positive outcomes and changes.Research evidence supports the view that participation in decision-making brings about:

  • Effective policy and decision-making
  • Improved services design
  • Autonomy
  • Opportunities for action on the part of children and young people

There are no prescriptive means of participation for any particular setting. There are many forms and different types of participation, including:

  • Consultations
  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Activism
  • Creative work
  • Co-design
  • Citizen assemblies

How to deliver participation

To ensure meaningful engagement of infants, children and young people, where their views are truly explored and valued, it is important that participation should be viewed as a process, not a one-off event. Tokenistic approaches are to be avoided i.e. where children and young people’s views are sought, but not adequately taken into account.Participation should be designed as part of an ongoing conversation between children and adults by:

  • Recognising and supporting children’s own actions, activities, and activism (which may not involve adults)
  • Recognising the importance of inclusive, safe, accessible, and respectful spaces where children and adults feel comfortable to share their views and work collaboratively
  • Offering an open attitude that ensures authentic engagement without tokenism

Further evidence of successful participation emphasised the need for participation projects to have clear aims and outcomes and processes in place for monitoring, opportunities for feedback and evaluation, and the use of creative means of engagement wherever possible (such as play, art, music, drama or design).

When considering a child friendly approach to participation, it is key to communicate with children and young people using the most appropriate approach to meet their needs and preferences. Please see the “4.3.1 Inclusive Communication” section.

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS) 7 Golden rules for participation may be useful. They are designed to help anyone working with and for children and young people to support them to understand, experience and exercise their participation rights. They are informed by the UNCRC General Comment 12 on right to participation in decision-making (Article 12) and they were developed in consultation with children and young people. They are available to download in a number of accessible formats and languages.

A Practical Guide to Including Seldom-Heard Children and Young People in Decision-Making provides a practitioners’ toolkitand includes sections on:

  • structures for groups of seldom-heard children and young people in organisations
  • creating a safe and friendly environment for seldom-heard children and young people
  • ways to engage with seldom-heard children and young people

“C went to the dentist this week and the staff were understanding of his needs, by asking if he wanted the lights dimmed, music playing, headphones on and to play with the reclining chair first.”

Carer from Children and Families panel working on the Child Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework

The Lundy Model of Child Participation, by Professor Laura Lundy, Queen’s University Belfast, provides a way of understanding a child’s right to participation and includes four key elements – space, voice, audience and influence.

There is a range of models of participation: including Hart’s Ladder of Participation, Treseder’s Degrees of Participation and Shier’s Pathway to Participation. For those working with very young children, you may wish to consult the Voice of the Infant: best practice guidelines.

You should also be mindful that children have a right to refuse to participate or express their views.

“Be aware that children who are on a recovery from severe and complex trauma may find certain subjects too difficult to address. However, they may want to participate in wider conversations and may also wish to have their views made known through a professional or family advocate. Simply ask.”

Comments from Children and Families panel working on the Child Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework

Listening and paying attention

Children communicate in different ways. Listening and paying attention may be particularly useful to support specific groups of children to express their views, for example: babies who are pre-verbal, children who have communication difficulties, disabled children, and those who have found other ways to express their feelings. It’s important to find methods of paying attention to all children and young people which will mean adapting how you engage with them.

When considering the views of babies and infants, the Voice of the Infant: best practice guidelines support professionals to take account of infants’ views and rights in all encounters they may have with statutory or third sector services, or in public spaces such as shops, libraries or galleries. These guidelines offer suggestions about how those who work with babies and very young children can notice, facilitate and share the infant’s feelings, ideas and preferences communicated through their gaze, body language and vocalisations.

For children and young people who are unable to express their wishes due to communication difficulties, lack of understanding or an assessed lack of capacity due to factors that may include their age or a disability, non-instructed advocacy can support their feelings and views to be expressed and shared with others. Further information on non-instructed advocacy can be found in section 4.6.2 of this guidance.

“Be aware that we might need to tell you something without using our voice.”

Comments from Children and Families panel working on the Child Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework

Examples of participation in practice

Participation case study 1: Cabinet Takeover

The annual meeting of all Cabinet Ministers with children and young people (CYP) demonstrates, at the highest level of government, the Scottish Government’s commitment to meaningfully and credibly engage with CYP on issues that matter most to them. CYP have the opportunity to represent the views of their peers from across Scotland, lead discussions and inform the government’s agenda by collectively agreeing to actions and commitments for the coming year.

In line with Article 12 of the UNCRC, it gives CYP the opportunity to influence national decisions, effectively participate in wider civic society and shape the future Scotland they want to live in.

Participation case study 2: Children and Young People’s Mental Health Task Force

This approach was to support the implementation of a programme of education and training for staff who work with children and young people in Scotland. The Joint Delivery Board Engagement Officer worked closely with a group of young people to ensure their views were represented within the Framework.

This work is continuing through the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board as part of the Task and Finish group 6 - developing a programme of education and training to increase the skills and knowledge required by all staff to support children and young people’s mental health. Comments were developed into a draft job description for ‘One Good Adult’ which outlines the skills required for adults to support children and young people’s mental health. This resource will be used in communications and awareness raising about the Framework.

Participation of children as part of securing better or further effect of rights

Participation is an important mechanism to achieve progressive realisation of rights in all areas of public authorities’ work. It is useful to recognise different forms of participation to give positive and better effect to children’s rights. Taking time to consider children’s voices has the ability to change how our systems work. It is not something that only happens once but, instead, should be seen as an integral part of how things work, and embedded in everything you do. When children participate in processes, they are empowered and more able to contribute.

There are many methods and means of participation that can be used to engage with children and young people. The Spectrum of Participation, outlined in the Scottish Government’s Participation Framework, offers a way of considering different forms of participation. The Framework is designed to guide good practice in participation (across government) and is designed as a toolkit that you can refer to, and dip in and out as required, with the aim of helping users enhance the participation experience for all. It might be helpful to consider where your current work sits on the spectrum and what actions you can take to progress to more meaningful involvement from participants. Small changes in your approach can have a huge impact on the outcomes for you and the children you are working with.


Activity: To provide the public with balanced and objective information

Offer to participants:

We will keep you informed

We will provide information openly and transparently

We will not withhold relevant information

Purpose: To inform those with an interest in the outcome (i.e. the public and stakeholder groups)


Activity: To obtain feedback on analysis, alternatives, proposals and/or decisions

Offer to participants:

We will keep you informed

We will listen to and acknowledge your concerns and aspirations

We will give serious consideration to your contributions

We will be open to your influence

We will provide feedback on how your input has influenced the outcome

Purpose: To inform those making the decision or developing proposals


Activity: To work directly with participants throughout the policy/decision making process to ensure that their concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered

Offer to participants:

We will keep you informed

We will work with you to ensure that your concerns and aspirations are directly reflected in the outcome/alternatives developed

We will provide feedback on how your input has influenced the outcome

Purpose: To enable participants to directly influence the decision/options developed


Activity: To partner with participants in each aspect of the decision, including defining the issue, developing alternatives and identifying preferred solutions.

Offer to participants:

We will look to you for advice and innovation in formulating solutions

We will incorporate your advice and recommendations into decision/implementation to the maximum extent possible

Purpose: To share the development and decision making process (as much as possible)


Activity: To place final decision-making in the hands of the participants

Offer to participants:

We will implement what you decide.

Purpose: To hand over the ability to make decisions and/or take action

Participation case study 3: Involving children and young people in planning in Aberdeen

As part of their work with Child Friendly Cities & Communities, Aberdeen City Council involved children and young people in the redesign of the city centre, which had been struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. The planning team received child rights training with a specific planning focus to support a children’s human rights approach. The planning team engaged children using a variety of methods, including online meetings and face-to-face sessions, and took over 100 children to visit the city centre and beach. They heard directly from children about how they feel in those spaces and what they would like to see in the future. The team were careful to make sure they worked with different groups from across the city, including children and young people outside mainstream education whose views are not always considered.

Throughout the process, Aberdeen’s planning department found children and young people to be most concerned about inclusivity and sustainability. Children and young people asked questions about how the space would work for disabled people, how it would adapt as the climate crisis develops, and what kinds of materials would be used to make sure the impact on the natural environment was considered. The planning team were able to take these perspectives into account in their plans for the city’s redevelopment. The team also made sure to communicate regularly with children and young people throughout the entire planning process. This meaningful engagement embedded the perspectives of children and young people and resulted in spaces that considered the whole community and the natural environment – both now, and in plans for the future.

Participation case study 4: Scotland’s Climate Assembly


Climate change is widely recognised as a risk to children’s health, wellbeing and rights. The Human Rights Council recognises that children are among the most vulnerable to climate change, and that this may have a serious impact on their rights, for example, it may reduce their ability to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, access to education, adequate food, adequate housing, safe drinking water and sanitation.[12]

Climate change also poses a direct threat to children’s identities, their future livelihoods and their relationship with the environment.

Specific child rights affected by climate change

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recognised climate change as “one of the biggest threats to children’s health”,[13]as well as its adverse impact on the rights to primary and secondary education (Article 28), adequate standard of living (Article 27), safe drinking water and sanitation (Article 24).In fact, children’s vulnerability to climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to the enjoyment of many, if not all, rights enshrined in the UNCRC, and notably the right to life, survival and development (Article 6).

Action taken

Scotland’s Climate Assembly brought together over 100 individuals, representative of the Scottish population (aged 16+), to learn about, discuss, and make recommendations on how Scotland should change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way. They submitted their report and recommendations to the Scottish Parliament in June 2021.[14]

Scottish Government invited the Children’s Parliament to support the participation and engagement of younger children across Scotland, to ensure their views, experiences, and ideas informed the discussions and recommendations. Between October 2020 and March 2021, they engaged over 100 children and young people from across Scotland.

The children and young people were supported to express their views, ideas and experiences and to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to take their calls to action to relevant authorities and decision makers through creative, digital and play-based participatory activities.

During Assembly meetings the views and insights from the young investigators were shared with the Assembly members through video contributions. A smaller group of adult Assembly members also met with the young investigators to discuss the recommendations being drafted. The children’s calls to action were fully integrated with the adults’ recommendations in the Assembly’s report and the Scottish Government response.

Children’s Parliament highlighted the importance of ensuring children felt emotionally supported, informed and hopeful at every stage of the process and also provided their teachers with guidance on climate anxiety and safeguarding, which was developed with climate psychologists. In line with Article 17 of the UNCRC (children have the right to information), the children and young people were provided with accessible and age appropriate information.

The Head of the Climate Assembly Secretariat, Susie Townend, defined the impact the children and young people’s views had on the Climate Assembly in three ways:[15]

  • Adults recognised the responsibility they had toward children and young people – their statement of ambition states that “if we fail to act now, we will fail our current and future generations in Scotland and across the world.”
  • Adults learned from the children’s ideas – particularly after having the opportunity to meet with the children. Townend noted “They heard what you had to say on plastics, on how we build homes, on tree planting, on creating jobs for you to do in the future, and they’ve made similar recommendations so I think we can see how you have influenced what they decided.”[16]
  • Working with the children and young people created a shared purpose – the views of the children and young people involved are included in the calls to action.

Children’s participation in Scotland’s Climate Assembly has been a unique and significant realisation of children’s right to participate in decision-making processes. They took a hope-based, solution-focused approach underpinned by a commitment to upholding and further realising children’s human rights, with the support of climate distress experts, to ensure children felt valued, supported and empowered in this process.

Participation case study 5: Early Years inclusive consultation in Lambeth

The Child Friendly Lambeth partnership created a range of interesting ways to consult children and young people across the London borough as part of the Discovery phase of their journey to become recognised as a UNICEF Child Friendly Community.

The Child Friendly Lambeth team wanted to ensure that the voices of children under five were heard at this crucial stage of the programme, but recognised that traditional consultation may not be appropriate. As a solution they developed the Under 5s Children’s Voice project so that this age group could share their own unique experiences of the world around them and have a say in shaping the local spaces and services that have a direct impact on their physical and mental wellbeing.

Child Friendly Lambeth developed guidelines for children’s centres and early years settings, and bought and shared disposable cameras. The team asked children and their caregivers to take photos of the things they liked in Lambeth, the places they liked to go, and the things they thought made Lambeth special. The images captured a vast range of activities and spaces, from playgrounds and green spaces to local services, and formed part of a local display. This was a crucial part of informing the selection of the priority areas for Child Friendly Lambeth.

4.6 Accountability

‘Authorities should be accountable to children for decisions and actions which affect their lives. Children should be given information and access to procedures which enable them to question and challenge decision-makers.’[17]

This section covers child friendly complaints procedures and advocacy and the UNCRC. It shares information on giving feedback to children and young people and sharing relevant reports and information, which will support children and young people to claim their rights or challenge decisions and actions. It also covers how advocacy can support individual children to have a voice in matters that affect them.

Feedback for children and young people on decision-making

When engaging with children and young people in decision-making, it is important to recognise that this is an ongoing process and they should be kept informed throughout.

The participation section of this guidance shares the Lundy model of participation. This model includes a recommended feedback process for use with children and young people, called the four Fs approach:[18]

  • Full: detailed feedback should be shared with children and young people which explains which views were taken on board, and which were not. This should also explain the reasons for these decisions, who is taking forward actions and what the next steps are
  • Friendly: responses or feedback for children and young people should be clear and understandable. The organisation should explain what they were told by children and young people and how their views were considered
  • Fast: children and young people should be thanked for their contributions, told about initial steps, and given information about future plans as soon as possible
  • Followed-up: children and young people should continue to receive updates throughout the decision-making process and on the impact of the work

“Stay in touch with us and let us know the long-term effect of giving our views. Give us updates.”…“If you don’t get back to us to let us know what happened with our views you will lose our trust.”

Comments from Children and Families panel working on the Child Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework

4.6.1 Child friendly complaints procedures

Children and young people use a wide range of Scottish public services, including schools, children and families social work, and health visitor services. Their experiences of those services can impact on many rights such as the right to education, the right to health and the right to seek, receive and give information. Children should be able to complain if they are unhappy with those services.

Therefore, public authorities may wish to consider implementing child friendly complaints procedures which are accessible to children, centred around their needs and in a format they can understand. Public authorities may wish to follow the child friendly model complaints process piloted by the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO), available from April 2024.

The UNCRC Act will help children who consider that public authorities are acting (or proposing to act) in ways that are incompatible with the UNCRC requirements (as laid out in the Act) to seek legal redress through the courts. Where possible, it may be preferable to resolve disputes and complaints through the establishment and use of complaints processes. Where these approaches are not available, effective or sufficient, litigation could be considered but may not always be the best approach to seeking redress. Whilst litigation can play an important role in delivering a children’s human rights approach in practice and may lead to the identification of legislation and practice which is incompatible with the UNCRC requirements, it is not the only approach to redress available.

It is important that mechanisms are in place to facilitate raising disputes and complaints about children’s rights issues under the Act. Complaints procedures play an important role in improving and monitoring how children’s rights are being implemented. Such procedures not only empower rights holders, and those acting on their behalf, to advocate for and claim their rights, but they can also hold public authorities to account.

Child rights reports

Under section 2 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, listed public authorities have a duty to report every three years on the steps they have taken to secure better or further effect to the rights of children. The intention of children’s rights reports is to support listed authorities in measuring the progress they are making with UNCRC implementation and to highlight potential areas where further activity might be necessary. The availability of public information at both local and national level increases transparency around UNCRC implementation and makes a direct link for the public between local services and outcomes for children and young people.

4.6.2 Advocacy and the UNCRC

For many children and young people access to advocacy can be fundamental in ensuring the realisation of their rights, particularly UNCRC Article 12 (right to express a view and have that view taken into account). Advocacy can also play a key role in the implementation of Articles 2 (non-discrimination) and 42 (right to knowledge of UNCRC).

What do we mean by advocacy?

Advocacy supports individuals to have a voice in matters that affect them. The role of an advocate is to give better effect to a child or young person’s right to express their views. Through advocacy, individuals can be supported to express their views themselves or an advocate can communicate with others on their behalf. Advocacy addresses barriers to participation and can redress any real or perceived imbalance of power between children and young people and adults.

Advocacy can ensure children and young people’s views are heard in a range of situations such as meetings, consultations, complaints processes, conferences, panels, hearings, tribunals and court proceedings.

By strengthening their knowledge, understanding and confidence, advocacy can empower children and young people to develop and convey informed opinions and express their feelings on matters that influence their lives.

Engaging with advocacy services can support children and young people to develop life skills, resilience and confidence to manage future situations and challenges.

It is important that children wishing to access advocacy are supported to do so. Steps should be taken to ensure children have an understanding of what is meant by advocacy and an awareness of the advocacy services available to them and how to access these services.

Types of advocacy

Advocacy may be provided on a one-to-one basis or collectively to a group of individuals experiencing similar or shared issues.

For children and young people who are unable to express their wishes due to communication difficulties, lack of understanding or an assessed lack of capacity due to factors that may include their age or a disability, non-instructed advocacy can support their feelings and views to be expressed and shared with others. In non-instructed advocacy, advocates use a variety of approaches to build a picture of the child or young person’s life: their likes and dislikes; their feelings, choices and involvement in decisions that affect them; and their communication abilities and preferences. More information can be found in the National practice model for children’s advocacy in the children’s hearings system.

Approaches will be determined by the individual nature of each situation and the wishes and capacity of the child or young person involved.

Provision of advocacy

Advocacy for children and young people can be provided in a number of ways and carried out by a range of individuals including their peers, parents, carers and professionals.

For example, the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 places a duty (subject to certain exceptions) on the chairing member of a children’s hearing to inform the child of the availability of children’s advocacy services.

Professional advocacy is different to other types of valuable support provided to children and young people such as guidance from teachers, parents and counselling services.

Professional advocacy is provided by a range of organisations such as charities and specialist services across Scotland. Local authorities have a strategic role in providing advocacy support for children and young people. They do this through commissioning services from organisations and, in some cases, provide advocacy themselves.

It is important that advocates work in a clear, accountable and transparent way and are able to deliver impartial support. The Scottish Government website provides guidance on advocacy for children and young people.

Independent Advocacy

In certain circumstances such as provision under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, children and young people have a right to access independent advocacy if they choose to do so.

Organisations providing independent advocacy may do so exclusively or in a manner that separates their practice from any other services they provide.

The Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) is a membership organisation that supports and promotes independent advocacy across Scotland. SIAA promote a children’s human rights approach that is underpinned by their Independent Advocacy Principles, Standards and Code of Best Practice.

The Promise makes a commitment to independent advocacy being available to children, young people and families who come into contact with the ‘care system’ at all stages of their experience, including lifelong advocacy, and sets out the principles this provision should be based on.

Advocacy case study 1

By taking into consideration C’s communication needs and preferences and creating an environment in which C felt comfortable and confident to express herself, a My Say, My Rights advocacy worker supported C to share her concerns, views and ideas with her school to develop inclusive communication approaches that met her learning needs.

A parent contacted Enquire – the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning for her daughter, C. C is 13 years old and dyslexic and was having some issues with support in school. After learning about C’s rights to support and advocacy, her mum gave Enquire permission to pass on contact details to My Rights, My Say advocacy staff. An advocacy worker, Kim*, contacted C’s mum to arrange a meeting.

Kim, C and her mum met in a local café. C had chosen the location of this meeting. As well as demonstrating C’s views were listened to and valued, accepting C’s choice of venue ensured the meeting was taking place in an environment she felt comfortable in. At the meeting, C said she felt she was not getting the right support with her dyslexia. Kim explained her rights to her, and they agreed to meet again. C and her advocacy worker then met a few times to build up a relationship and trust.

C highlighted her concerns about her school not taking the right approach to supporting her with her dyslexia. She offered solutions that would help her in class such as: recording her notes; printouts being issued on blue, red or yellow paper; and her teachers being aware of her dyslexia. C thought that, because she was finding lots of different areas difficult, she might need an ‘assessment of need’.

To move forward C asked to speak to the school with Kim. C told Kim that at previous meetings she had found the presence of multiple staff members intimidating. Kim liaised with the school and arranged a meeting with just one member of staff: the Deputy Head Teacher. This created a more comfortable environment for C. At the meeting with support from Kim, C shared her views. The Deputy Head Teacher listened to her and agreed to look into what was achievable and get back to C.

C was kept informed about what was going to happen after the meeting. With C’s permission, Kim sent C’s views to her local education authority as per My Rights, My Say protocol. C received a quick response from the local authority. They said they were working with the school to help her and that an ‘assessment of need’ would be carried out. Support was then put in place in school which helped C access her education and feel more confident.

The case study demonstrates the following advocacy points in action:

  • Time was taken to build relationships
  • C was given a voice in a matter that affected her
  • Advocate addressed barriers to participation by supporting C with her communication needs e.g. meetings taking place in a comfortable environment, minimum adults in the space
  • C felt valued and listened to
  • As a result of advocacy teacher awareness and understanding of C’s needs has increased
  • C’s views were listened to and actioned
  • Feedback provided to keep YP in the loop on next steps and decisions.

*Name has been changed for anonymity.


Email: uncrcincorporation@gov.scot

Back to top