United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child implementation: introductory guidance

Non-statutory guidance developed in partnership with public authorities and the third sector, introducing key concepts within the UNCRC and links with further resources for embedding a children’s rights-based approach in public services.

An updated version of this guidance was published in January 2024.

Introduction to Guidance

Who is this guidance for?

This guidance is issued by Scottish Ministers on a non-statutory basis to provide those involved in public service delivery in Scotland with an introduction to giving effect to children's rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The Scottish Government recognises the vital role that those providing public services play in delivering for children, young people and their communities. The full realisation of children's rights requires proactivity on the part of all public services and those working with children and young people.

Children's rights are not just relevant to children and young person's services. All decisions made about and actions taken to deliver public services may impact on the rights and wellbeing of children and young people. It is vital to the realisation of children's rights for all those undertaking public functions to consider children's rights in their work. Consideration of children's rights should be evident across all public service delivery.

How do I use this guidance?

Along with other resources, this guidance intends to enable those delivering public services to consider the UNCRC in the delivery of their services and to take actions now to make children's rights real, including by considering completing Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIAs) and meaningfully including children and young people in decision-making.

How was this guidance developed?

This guidance was developed in consultation with the UNCRC Short-Term Working Group on Guidance, which comprised representation from leaders in the children's rights sector, public authorities and the wider third sector.

The Group has formed to help develop this guidance in support of a commitment to embedding children's rights in public services and in due course, statutory guidance in relation to the incorporation of the UNCRC in Scots law, to the maximum extent possible. The minutes and terms of reference of the Working Group are available on the Scottish Government website.

"Scotland is leading the world in the advancing of children and young people's rights with the Incorporation of the UNCRC."

Josh Kennedy MSYP

Children and Young People's Voices Matter

What will I learn?

The aims of this introductory guidance are to:

  • Introduce human rights, children's rights and the UNCRC to those who are less familiar with it
  • Raise awareness of the ambition for children's rights in Scotland, and set out the Government's actions to implement the UNCRC to date
  • Provide an update on the UNCRC (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill, including the Supreme Court judgment
  • Set out the plans for further guidance and support for those delivering public services
  • Introduce sources to help interpret the UNCRC articles
  • Introduce a child rights based approach to giving effect to the UNCRC
  • Highlight sources of expert advice

What are human rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms which we all have in order to live with dignity, equality and fairness, and to develop and reach our potential. Human rights are a list of things that all people – including children and young people – need in order to live a safe, healthy and happy life. Human rights are:

  • Universal (they apply to everyone, regardless of who they are)
  • Inalienable (they cannot be taken from you or given away)
  • Indivisible (they are all equally important)
  • Interdependent (breach of one impacts them all)

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has been incorporated into UK domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA).

Everyone, including children, have these rights, no matter what their circumstances. Under international law, States/Governments are obliged to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. Those delivering public services should respect human rights when they make decisions, plan services and make policies.

"If adults obey these rules, then millions of children could have much better lives than at present."

Young person's response to SG consultation


Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot

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