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.

Children's Right to Participate in Decisions

A right to participate in decisions which affect you

Under Article 12 of the UNCRC, every child and young person who is capable of forming his or her own views has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting him or her, with those views being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child and young person. Section 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 places duties on Scottish Ministers in respect of the UNCRC, including by embedding the requirements of Article 12.

In order to fulfil the rights under Article 12 where children and young people's views are not known on a matter that is likely to have an impact on them, those delivering public services should take steps to obtain their views. Part 1 Guidance on the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 explains in more detail rights based duties and expectations in relation to public bodies, including engagement with children and young people.

Evolving capacity in the UNCRC

A child or young person's capacity includes, among other things, their ability to understand different choices and make decisions.

As children grow and develop, they tend to develop the ability to make more decisions for themselves. In the UNCRC, this is referred to as a child's "evolving capacities".

Children's capacity develops gradually, and it doesn't happen at the same speed for everyone – it depends on things like a child's experiences, education and maturity, as well as the complexity and magnitude of the decision being made.

Legal capacity in Scots Law

The Age of Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act 1991 makes provisions in Scots law as to the legal capacity of persons under the age of 18 years to enter into transactions and the setting aside and ratification by the court of transactions entered into by such persons, among other things.

"The annual meeting between the Cabinet and children and young people is a unique and valuable way for us to relay the priorities of our generation to decision-makers. That the Scottish Government have committed to continuing the meeting on an annual basis for this parliamentary term is very positive, and I hope it becomes a permanent fixture of the Government's calendar."

Jack Dudgeon MSYP

Children and Young People's Voices Matter

Progressive Realisation and Maximum Available Resources

Article 4 of the UNCRC introduces the concept of 'progressive realisation' in relation to economic, social and cultural rights such as the rights to nutrition, clothing and housing. This means there must be progress made over time towards the full realisation of children's rights. To comply with these rights in international law it must be shown that the rights have been progressed using the "maximum extent of available resources". This means generating, allocating and spending resources in a way that is effective and efficient for the realisation of children's rights.

There is also an obligation in international law in relation to children's economic and social rights which are not subject to progressive realisation or the availability of resources. For example, the provision of the minimum essential levels of the rights, such as the provision of primary education and ensuring that children can enjoy their rights without discrimination.

"Our views are important, we see the world in an imaginative and positive way. We need to be valued for what we can offer the world now as children, and not just as citizens to be."

Member of Children's Parliament in "What kind of Scotland?"

Parents and Families

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly recognises the central role played by parents and families in ensuring that children grow up healthy, happy and safe.

It recognises that families need protection and assistance to support the rights and wellbeing of children.

Rights within the UNCRC require governments to recognise parental responsibilities and provide resources and support to help them fulfil their responsibilities, including assisting parents and carers to ensure children are provided with an adequate standard of living.

"Role models are important. Everyone needs someone to follow and inspire them."

Member of Children's Parliament in "What kind of Scotland?"


Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot

Back to top