Progressing the human rights of children in Scotland action plan 2018-2021: progress report 2019

Sets out progress made in taking forward actions in the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018 to 2021 since December 2018.

Strategic Actions Progress


We will incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law.

The Programme for Government 2019/20 sets out the First Minister's commitment to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law in Scotland in this Parliamentary Session. Ministers will introduce a Bill to incorporate the UNCRC as the key Bill of year five of the legislative programme.

This 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.

A public consultation seeking views on the model of incorporation that will deliver the best outcomes for children, young people and families in Scotland opened on 22 May 2019. The consultation document made clear Ministers' intention to incorporate the UNCRC either directly, or through a Scottish suite of children's rights.

The consultation was due to close on 14 August but was extended by two weeks until 28 August to enable greater participation by children and young people. A total of 162 consultation responses were received (128 organisations and 33 individuals). The responses have now been published. The independent analysis of these responses will be published on 20 November 2019, the 30th Anniversary of the UNCRC.

To complement the public consultation, a range of bilateral official and Ministerial meetings were held over the summer, engaging over 180 children and young people across seven Scottish Government-funded events and meetings with 47 organisations, representing a range of sectors.

The Scottish Government has also convened a short-life UNCRC Working Group that includes representatives from UNICEF, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights), academics, parenting organisations, the Scottish Youth Parliament, NHS, Police Scotland, COSLA, the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates. The Group has met seven times and will have its final meeting before the end of the year.

The output from the Working Group, together with the responses from the public consultation and the views gathered during the bilateral meetings, will inform advice to Ministers on a draft Bill.

It is clear through the consultation that there is wide recognition that incorporating the UNCRC will significantly advance the protection and realisation of children’s rights in Scotland. Through the responses to the consultation, it is evident that there is 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.

Whilst 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 to be unintended. We will, therefore, not take this path. The Bill which will be introduced next year will instead take a maximalist approach. Scotland will incorporate the UNCRC into law to the maximum extent possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The Bill will also make provision to allow incorporation of those provisions of the Convention currently beyond our powers into our domestic law if – and when - the powers of the Scottish Parliament change in the future.

As a result, sadly, some parts of the UNCRC – for example, the provision on military recruitment – are reserved and cannot be incorporated by this Parliament. Our expectation is that a vast majority of the UNCRC’s provisions can be incorporated by this Parliament. That will ensure that the rights contained in the UNCRC are afforded the highest protection and respect possible within our constitutional settlement. This approach will for the first time mean that the UNCRC is directly built into Scots law. This represents a huge step forward for the protection of children's rights in Scotland. Every devolved body, every health board, every council – and the Scottish Government itself – will be legally obliged to respect children’s rights.

Raising Awareness

We will develop and deliver through co-production, an ambitious programme to raise awareness and understanding of children's rights across all sectors of society in Scotland.

Fundamental to embedding children's rights fully across Scottish society, is a Scotland-wide knowledge and understanding of children's rights and how to act on them. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has emphasised that awareness-raising about children's rights is most effective when progressed through interaction and dialogue[1]. Co-production was endorsed as a "game-changing" approach for the rights awareness raising programme at the Children in Scotland Children's Sector Strategic Forum.

Ahead of the Bill to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law, the Scottish Government is, therefore, progressing through co-production the three-year programme to raise awareness of children's rights across all sectors of Scottish society, including children and young people themselves.

In April 2019, five RightsCafe events were held in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Stirling and Dundee with 180 children, young people and professionals in attendance. These events aimed to identify gaps, or areas for development, in awareness of children's rights, which should be addressed through the three year programme. Initial feedback from the events highlighted parents/carers as a group where gaps in awareness may exist and that for children's rights to be truly embedded, a culture change needed to take place across Scotland. This feedback informed the development of the next phase of the programme.

The Scottish Government then commissioned Young Scot, in partnership with Children in Scotland, to work with a group of children and young people to develop through co-production a range of resources that will help to raise awareness of children's rights across all sectors of Scottish society. This contract also includes children and young people's involvement in the development of a strategic approach to participation, another related priority for the strategic actions. Work on this programme commenced in August 2019 and will continue until 31 July 2020.

The children and young people who are working with this programme will be aged 3 to 18 years old, with 50% of them having come from seldom heard groups and 50% having never participated in a national programme previously. In September 2019, 63 children and young people applied to take part in the group, with 20 children and young people being selected.

In addition, between March and July 2019, an online resource mapping exercise was undertaken inviting professionals and organisations from across the children and young people's sector to share their knowledge of existing children's rights awareness raising resources, programmes and training packages. The mapping exercise received 112 responses.

A further resource mapping exercise will be undertaken by the children and young people who are part of the co-production group. Combined 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 (CYP Act) is also critical to making rights real for children, young people and their families. To support the implementation of children's rights by public bodies across Scotland, support meetings have been offered to all public authorities who have a reporting duty under Part 1, section 2 of the CYP Act. 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. To date, the Scottish Government has supported 10 public authorities in this way, including facilitated development sessions with three 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 supporting 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 leading to improvement by:

  • Taking part in reciprocal visits to other schools to identify what is working well, areas for improvement and effective practice; and
  • Promoting ways that children and young people can be involved in school improvement activities in their own school.

Strategic Approach to Participation

We will deliver a strategic approach to children and young people's participation, as part of the Year of Young People (YOYP) legacy. Our aim is to mainstream the participation of children and young people in decision-making across Scottish society.

Ahead of a Bill to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law, the Scottish Government is developing a strategic approach to participation. Four working groups - Strategic, Resource, Access and Research - are being established to help develop the strategic approach to participation, with volunteers from the third sector, local government, health and academia working in partnership with the Scottish Government.

The Research short-life group was convened first as this theme underpins the broader participation approach. The group's purpose was to consider the evidence base of existing guidance and research on participation of children and young people in decision-making, practice examples and policy areas that have consulted with children and young people - helping to shape the strategic approach to participation.

The group met three times during 2019 - in March, June and September. A small subgroup of members, made up of academics and representatives from third sector organisations covering the age range 0-18 years, was also convened to help steer the work of the Research group. This subgroup met twice, with six young people attending one of the meetings. We also commissioned a researcher for three months (June to September 2019) to work with us to take forward the tasks of the Research group.

The main output from the Research group will be a participation webpage on the Scottish Government website. Its purpose will be to provide information, guidance and support on children and young people's participation in decision-making. The intended audience of the webpage is those who engage, or want to engage, with children and young people as part of their decision-making (e.g. public authorities, policymakers, service designers). It is intended that the webpage will cover:

  • A definition of children and young people's participation in decision-making and its benefits;
  • Guidance on how to enable the participation of children and young people;
  • Reports and evidence that outline children and young people's views on a range of subjects;
  • Practice examples showing different methodologies of children and young people's participation;
  • Research publications covering different aspects of participation, such as theory, methodology and ethics; and
  • Signposting to organisations that can offer support in delivering the participation of children and young people.

The Access group will consider how best to support and promote wider engagement from children and young people so they can participate in decision-making. The group will also consider the methods children and young people can use to participate, including digital media. However, the group is still in its early stages - its role and remit still need to be agreed. Members of the Access group include those from across stakeholder organisations in the third sector, public sector, children and young people and Scottish Government officials. The first meeting of the Access group was held on 8 October. The group will engage with children and young people to:

  • Help inform the scope and remit of the working group;
  • Seek their views on how best we engage with them; and
  • Ensure that co-production methods are used.

Young Scot, in partnership with Children in Scotland, have been commissioned to co-produce the strategic approach to participation (along with the children's rights awareness raising programme) with children and young people aged 3 to 18 years. This work commenced on 1 August 2019 and will continue until 31 July 2020. Children and young people will work closely with the working groups (Strategic, Resource, Access, Research) with specific tasks and outcomes developed as the working groups are progressed.

The work under the Strategic and Resource groups is intended to commence in 2020. We expect that the Resource group will consider both funding and capacity. In the interim, third sector organisations undertaking work to deliver on children's rights and participation were eligible to apply for the new Families and Communities Fund, providing up to £16 million each year for three years. Consideration of those applications is well underway and it is our intention to announce the results of that process before the end of the year.

Impact Assessment

We will evaluate the Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) process to further support and promote its use.

The CRWIA aims to ensure that all areas of the Scottish Government consider the possible direct and indirect impacts of proposed policies and legislation on the rights and wellbeing of children and young people. The views of children and young people are integral to the CRWIA process. Guidance on the CRWIA approach has been published for use by public authorities and others, should they wish to use this resource.

The use of the CRWIA is assisting government and other relevant organisations to take a rights-based approach to the development of policies and services ahead of the Bill to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law.

The Scottish Government commissioned an independent review of the CRWIA. In March 2019, the streamlined process, updated guidance, training tools and templates were made available on the Scottish Government website.

We continue to raise awareness of the CRWIA and to promote its use across public authorities, including as part of visits to support individual authorities in meeting their reporting duties under Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

We have also included an objective within the terms of grant of the core funded organisations within the CYPFEIF/ALEC[2] Fund to 'take steps to promote the UNCRC through the creation and development of their policies and procedures'. The indicator for this objective is that, by 31 March 2020, the organisations 'will evidence that they have considered the rights and wellbeing of children and young people by completing a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) for the creation and development of their policies and procedures'.

We intend for an independent assessor to undertake an evaluation of the impact of CRWIA in 2021 to further support and promote its use.

Governance Arrangements

To provide a leadership space to discuss ideas and issues, to make children's rights real in Scotland and oversee the action plan.

High-level oversight of progress made in relation to the strategic actions in the Action Plan is provided by the Improving Outcomes for Children and Young People Strategic Forum. The Forum, which is jointly chaired by the Scottish Government Director for Children and Families and the Scottish Government Director of Learning, includes representatives from local government, public authorities and the third sector. The Group meets quarterly.

In addition, the Director for Children and Families has convened a cross-government Group at Director level within the Scottish Government to ensure co-ordinated approaches to policy and outcomes relevant to the rights and wellbeing of children and young people.



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