Publication - Progress report

Progressing the human rights of children in Scotland: report 2018 to 2021

This report discusses actions taken to support and promote the rights of children in Scotland in line with Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 Act from 2018 until 2021.

Progressing the human rights of children in Scotland: report 2018 to 2021
1. Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018-21 – End of Plan Update

1. Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018-21 – End of Plan Update

In accordance with duties under section 1(4) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, the Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2018-2021 (2018 Action Plan) was laid before Parliament in December 2018. The 2018 Action Plan included the following 4 strategic actions which aimed to support transformational change in how children and young people experience their rights:

  • Incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law.
  • 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.
  • Develop a strategic approach to children and young people's participation, as part of the Year of Young People legacy.
  • Evaluate the Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) process and further support and promote its use.

Building on the updates published in 2019 and 2020, this chapter will provide an end of plan summary of the activity undertaken in relation to the above strategic actions since 2018.

1.1 Incorporation

We will incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law

The Scottish Government is committed to a revolution in children's rights and to doing all that we can to support children and young people to better experience their rights, and to empower them to defend their rights and those of others. In the 2018 Action Plan, the Scottish Government committed to incorporating the principles of the UNCRC into Scots law by:

  • Consulting widely, including with children and young people and their families, local authorities and other public bodies across Scotland, as well as third sector partners on the right model of incorporation.
  • Considering where it may be possible for Scots law to go further than the UNCRC requires, where that is demonstrably beneficial for children and young people.
  • Continuing, in the interim, to consider ways in which rights under the UNCRC can be given better or further effect across individual policy areas.

Following wide-ranging public engagement, on the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC, in November 2019, the Deputy First Minister announced the Scottish Government's intention to incorporate the UNCRC directly into Scots law to the maximum extent possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

This decision was informed by a public consultation, which sought views on the model of incorporation that would deliver the best outcomes for children, young people and their families in Scotland. The consultation, which opened on 22 May 2019, was extended by two weeks until 28 August 2019 to enable greater participation of children and young people. A total of 162 consultation responses were received from individuals, public bodies, third sector organisations, legal organisations, academia and others. Engagement events, including with children and young people, also informed the consultation process, resulting in 13 consultation responses from organisations which specifically represented the views of children and young people. The independent analysis of the responses to the consultation and engagement events was published in November 2019. An Easy Read summary of the responses to the consultation was also published at this time.

The Scottish Government also convened a short-life Working Group that included representatives from UNICEF, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights), academics, parenting organisations, the Scottish Youth Parliament, the NHS, Police Scotland, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates. The Group, which met eight times between 25 June 2019 and 24 February 2020, considered the policy, practice and legislative implications of UNCRC incorporation, using the Scottish Government's consultation document on "Incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into our domestic law in Scotland" as the framework for discussions. The Group's Summary Report includes the majority views expressed by members, including that there should be a Scottish Bill to incorporate the UNCRC fully and directly into Scots law, as far as possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill was subsequently introduced on 1 September 2020, and unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament on 16 March 2021, signalling a revolution in children's rights in Scotland.

On 12 April 2021, a reference of certain provisions of the Bill was made by UK Law Officers to the UK Supreme Court. The provisions referred to the Supreme Court were: section 6 (duty on public authorities); and sections 19 to 21 (the interpretation duty and judicial powers of 'strike down' and 'incompatibility declarator'). A hearing before the UK Supreme Court took place on 28 and 29 June 2021.

On 6 October 2021, the UK Supreme Court delivered a judgment on the referral, finding each of the provisions referred by UK Law Officers to be outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. As articulated in the Deputy First Minister's statement to the Scottish Parliament on the same day[5], the Scottish Government fully respects the court's judgment, but cannot help but be disappointed. We are urgently and carefully considering the implications of the Supreme Court judgment and how best to take that work forward. However, meanwhile the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can, and is, continuing.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill (the Bill)

The intent behind the Bill was to ensure that the rights contained in the UNCRC are afforded the highest protection and respect possible within the current constitutional settlement. As stated above, we are currently carefully considering the Supreme Court judgment, and the implications for the UNCRC Bill.

The Bill, as passed by the Scottish Parliament on 16 March 2021, provides that public authorities, including health boards and councils, and the Scottish Government itself, would be legally obliged to respect children's rights. If they do not, children, young people and their representatives would be able to use the courts to enforce their rights.

The Bill would deliver a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children's rights across public services in Scotland, and would ensure that public authorities take proactive steps to ensure compliance with children's rights in their decision making and service delivery. The Bill would apply to all public functions that it is possible for the Scottish Parliament to cover, including public functions which are 'contracted out' to non-State actors such as private or third-sector bodies.

The Bill provides that, for the purposes of the incorporated rights and obligations, a child is a person under 18 years old. The Bill also contains specific measures to remove barriers that children and young people may face in realising their rights under the Bill and in accessing justice. These provisions include giving the Children and Young People's Commissioner in Scotland and the Scottish Human Rights Commission the power to raise, and intervene in, claims in the public interest.

The Bill would also require the Scottish Ministers to create a Children's Rights Scheme ("the Scheme"), setting out the arrangements they have, or will have in place, to meet their duty to comply with, and to secure better or further effect of, the rights of the child. The Scheme would be required to include arrangements for the Scottish Ministers to:

  • Ensure that children are able to participate in the making of decisions that affect them, with access to such support and representation (for example from children's advocacy services) as they require to do so.
  • Identify and address any situation where a child's rights are (or are at a significant risk of) not being fulfilled.
  • Raise awareness of and promote the rights of children.
  • Promote complaints handling procedures that children can understand and use.
  • Ensure that children have effective access to justice.
  • Protect the rights of children in relation to their interactions with persons, other than public authorities, who provide services which affect children.
  • Consider the rights of children in the Scottish Government's budget process;
  • Ensure that Scottish Ministers' actions contribute to any national outcome for children determined by them under Part 1 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.
  • Prepare and publish Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIAs).
  • Use, and promote the use of, inclusive ways of communicating that ensure that children are able to receive information and express themselves in ways that best meet their needs (in relation to speech, language or otherwise).

The Bill would require Scottish Ministers to report on the Scheme annually, including actions taken in the previous year and plans for taking forward children's rights in the year ahead. The Scottish Ministers could amend the Scheme or make a new scheme to replace it at any time.

The Bill would also require the Scottish Ministers to prepare and publish CRWIAs for all new Bills being introduced by the Scottish Ministers in the Scottish Parliament; most Scottish statutory instruments made by the Scottish Ministers; and decisions of a strategic nature made by the Scottish Ministers relating to the rights and wellbeing of children. The CRWIA is discussed further at section 1.4.

The Bill would also place a duty on certain listed public authorities to report every three years on the steps they have taken, and will in future take, to: act compatibly with the incorporated UNCRC rights and obligations and to secure better or further effect of children's rights.

The Bill contains provision which will mean it would automatically commence 6 months from Royal Assent. It also contains powers for the Scottish Ministers to make regulations to commence the Bill earlier than 6 months from Royal Assent.

Whilst the judgment means that the Bill cannot receive Royal Assent in its current form, the majority of work in relation to implementation of the UNCRC can and is continuing.

Implementation of the UNCRC

Through the implementation of the UNCRC the rights of all children should be fully realised and protected. Between now and 2024, the Scottish Government is continuing our work to implement the UNCRC by investing £4 million in a three year implementation programme to deliver a fundamental shift in the way children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland. Respecting, protecting and fulfilling children's rights is central to our commitment to #KeepThePromise and to Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC), which will continue to underpin how we love, care for, and support all children and young people in Scotland.

Governance of the UNCRC Implementation Programme

The UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board (the Board) was convened in 2021 to provide strategic and collaborative oversight and leadership of the three-year UNCRC implementation programme and includes representation from leaders in the children's rights sector and public authorities. The inaugural meeting of the Board took place on 1 July 2021 and the Board is currently meeting monthly to provide strategic vision, oversee delivery of the programme and to monitor progress. The Terms of Reference for the Board have been published on the Scottish Government website[6], along with the minutes of each meeting.

To support the meaningful and inclusive participation of children and young people in the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board, and wider implementation programme, we are also working to establish a consortium of organisations that have strong, trusting relationships with children and young people across Scotland. As well as creating a way for children and young people to be part of the decision-making process for the UNCRC implementation programme, it is the intention that this approach would support a more sustainable and strategic approach to participation and engagement and, in time, allow wider policy issues across the Scottish Government to be considered too.

In order to ensure children and young people are at the heart of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board's collective leadership and decision-making before the consortium is established, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights) are currently supporting the Scottish Government to put in place the following interim measures:

  • Involving children and young people in the work of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board, including preparing child-friendly and accessible information.
  • Developing, documenting and disseminating innovative best practice on children and young people's participation, including an end-of-project evaluation, which will also help to shape the model for the proposed consortium.
  • Consulting with children and young people on specific deliverables from the UNCRC Implementation Programme strands.

Together have established an Interim Consortium, made up of children and young people representing 6 organisations[7], along with a number of wider associate organisations. The Interim Consortium met for the first time in October 2021.

The UNCRC Implementation Programme Strands

The Financial Memorandum to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Billset out the high level plan for the three year implementation programme covering three strands which have been further developed and expanded into four, and are now as follows:

Scottish Government Leadership for Children's Rights

As set out in the 2021 action plan, this strand of work is focussed on ensuring that the Scottish Government is a leader for children's rights and a role model to others in upholding children's rights, as well as ensuring all Scottish Government policy and legislation is UNCRC compliant by:

  • Remaining committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC into domestic law to the maximum extent possible as soon as practicable.
  • Developing and delivering a strategic plan for raising awareness and training on the UNCRC and children's rights across the Scottish Government and its agencies.
  • Promoting the importance and adoption of Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIAs) and continuing work to improve CRWIA training and to develop an impact evaluation process.
  • Consulting on, and publishing, a Children's Rights Scheme which will set out how the Scottish Government will give better and further effect to the rights of children.

Empowering Children and Young People to Claim Their Rights

This strand of work is focussed on creating and amplifying systems that enable children and young people to be empowered human rights defenders, by continuing to drive forward a rights-based approach to participation, ensuring we listen, consider, and respond to representative voices of children and young people, and particularly those who are seldom heard by:

  • Co-creating a national awareness raising campaign for children's rights with children and their families, to ensure that children, young people, their families and all of Scottish society are aware of and understand the UNCRC, and to support them to be rights defenders.
  • Producing a wide range of information and guidance resources aimed at raising public awareness to increase individuals' understanding of children's rights.
  • Establishing a consortium of organisations to support a sustainable, meaningful and inclusive approach to participation of children and young people in decision making.

Embedding Children's Rights in Public Services

The Scottish Government recognises the vital role that public services play in delivering for children, young people and their communities. This strand is focussed on supporting a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children's rights across public services in Scotland by:

  • Producing guidance for public authorities, and those undertaking functions of a public nature, to implement the UNCRC.
  • Developing a Children's Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework to support capacity building in public services in taking a children's rights approach in practice to drive forward the cultural change required.
  • Developing a National Improvement Programme, which will include an approach to self-evaluation, and the creation of an Innovation Fund to provide financial support for testing and implementing creative approaches to embedding children's rights.

Children's Rights Resolution

This strand, which was not originally included in the Financial Memorandum accompanying the Bill, was added to the implementation programme in June 2021. This strand is focussed on working to provide targeted support to those areas which we know can make a real difference in furthering children's rights and allowing children to access their rights when they are not being met, by:

  • Working with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to develop a child-friendly complaints process to ensure children and young people are able to access their rights.
  • Working across the Scottish Government and with stakeholders to review existing advocacy arrangements to support children and young people in accessing their rights, and to consider how we can strengthen the provision of advocacy to children and young people who need it.
  • Developing an Evaluation and Monitoring Framework to monitor and evaluate the delivery, aims and impact of the UNCRC Implementation Programme, whilst simultaneously linking progress in embedding children's rights to long term outcomes for children and young people.

This strand will also involve proactive engagement with colleagues across the Scottish Government on specific issues where more can be done for children's rights. We intend to strategically target those issues where we can go further to respect, protect and fulfil children's rights in policy, legislation and practice and contribute to the progressive realisation of children's rights.

Other Legislative Measures

In addition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, throughout the reporting period the Scottish Government has also taken forward a range of other legislative measures which aim to give further effect to the UNCRC including:

  • The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019.
  • The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019.
  • Our support for the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019.
  • The Children (Scotland) Act 2020.

1.2 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.

Achieving a Scotland-wide knowledge and understanding of children's rights and how to act on them is central to the implementation of the UNCRC, and to embedding children's human rights into the fabric of Scottish society. In the 2018 Action Plan, the Scottish Government committed to developing and delivering through co-production, an ambitious programme to raise awareness and understanding of children's rights across all sectors of society in Scotland by:

  • Mapping existing rights-based awareness resources, programmes and training packages.
  • Recruiting a group of young leaders to organise and co-facilitate 6 conference events and local discussion groups in different locations across Scotland, including engagement with those who are seldom heard.
  • Developing, through co-production, resources and training programmes to strengthen rights awareness and understanding across all areas of society, in particular where gaps or weaknesses are identified.
  • Working 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.

In 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 findings from this exercise helped inform our decision to create the #ActivateYourRights Pack and begin conversations with parents groups.

During 2019, five Rights Cafe events were held in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Stirling and Dundee, with 180 children, young people and adults in attendance. These events aimed to identify gaps, or areas for development, in awareness of children's rights, which will continue to be addressed through the three year implementation programme.

Following the online resource mapping exercise described above, the Scottish Government commissioned Young Scot, in partnership with Children in Scotland and young people, to lead the co-production of resources and training programmes to strengthen awareness and understanding of children's rights. Building upon existing materials and resources, an #ActivateYourRights panel of 20 children and young people, aged 8 to 18 years old, with 50% coming from seldom heard groups, was established.

Working together with Young Scot and Children in Scotland, they co-produced a range of materials to support raising awareness of children's rights amongst children and young people, to be used in a variety of settings across Scotland. These resources seek to aid progressive learning about children's rights, introduce activities to help children and young people understand what rights look like in practice, and build their confidence to defend their rights when these are not being respected.

The #ActivateYourRights resources, which include an Activity Facilitation Pack, a Q&A podcast from Maree Todd, MSP, the previous Minister for Children and Young People, and the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland and a host of online, interactive articles, were published on Young Scot's website in September 2020.

The online resource mapping exercise and the Rights Café events identified parents and carers as a priority group for raising awareness of the UNCRC. A Reference Group of key partners was therefore initiated in March 2020 to develop and design resources to increase the awareness of children's rights amongst parents and carers and to advise on the best approach to test these resources. In April 2020, in light of the pandemic, the group took the strategic decision to pause commencement of this work until such time as parents and carers could be meaningfully engaged with, and also in recognition of the need for partners, at that time, to focus their time and resources on crucial, emergency COVID-19 response work. The group have recently reformed and further stakeholder engagement will continue to help inform what resources are required to increase the awareness and understanding of children's rights amongst parents and carers.

We are also continuing to work alongside Education Scotland to strengthen awareness and understanding of children's rights. In November 2020, Education Scotland published the Children's Rights and Participation Strategy 2020 - 2022, which sets out how the organisation will strive to protect and respect the rights of all children, as set out in the UNCRC. Education Scotland also continue to chair a rights and participation network which includes officials from the Scottish Government, third sector organisations and local authorities. The network meets every 6-8 weeks and aims to focus on topical themes through a children's rights lens.

We have also worked with Education Scotland and YouthLink Scotland, through the testing of the professional learning resource Children's Rights in Youth Work - What, Why and How? Training Tool. This learning resource was previously called Recognising & Realising Children's Rights: Youth Work.

Since April 2021, Education Scotland has experienced a high demand across all areas of education for support and professional learning around the UNCRC, with over 2000 participants attending training events. In August 2021, the training tool was refreshed and renamed, and as a result of this high demand, a 'Train the Trainers' approach was also developed and delivered.

The Children's Rights Professional Learning - What, Why and How? Resource aims to raise knowledge and awareness of the UNCRC and to support the development of a rights-based culture and ethos across community learning and development, early learning and childcare, and amongst school-based staff. It has been adapted to be delivered online in several formats: an introductory session, a full workshop and a Train the Trainer session, which supports local authority leads to take forward the programme in their own contexts. Every local authority in Scotland has a person who is able to support the delivery of professional learning regarding the UNCRC in educational settings.

The resource supports all community learning and development practitioners working with young people in a youth work or formal education setting. It can also be used to build the understanding of other community learning and development stakeholders for example Community Learning and Development Partnerships; Community Planning Partnerships and elected members. The full workshop and Train the Trainer session continues to be delivered throughout the year by Education Scotland, local authority leads, YouthLink Scotland and other third sector partners.

Raising awareness of children's rights amongst public authorities with duties under Part 1, Section 2 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (the "2014 Act") is also critical to making rights real for children, young people and their families. These duties require public authorities listed in Schedule 1 of the 2014 Act, to publish a report every 3 years on, among other things, the steps that they have taken in that period to secure better or further effect of the UNCRC requirements (as defined in the Act). The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 permitted those public authorities to delay publication of such reports due to delays caused by the pandemic but such reports are still required as soon as reasonably practicable from the original deadline of 1 April 2020.

1.3 Strategic Approach to Participation

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

In the 2018 Action Plan, the Scottish Government committed to developing a strategic approach to mainstream the participation of children and young people in decision-making across Scottish society by:

  • Working in partnership with our stakeholders, and children and young people, to develop our strategic approach.
  • Making sure that we listen to 'representative' voices of children and young people, in particular ensuring that the voices of the seldom heard, vulnerable and younger children are routinely heard.
  • Considering resourcing and how participation is made sustainable.
  • Considering access, including digital technology, to support wider engagement.
  • Publishing an evidence base of existing research, good practice and policy areas that have consulted with children and young people.

As set out in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and young people who are capable of forming their own views have the right to have their views heard on issues that affect them. The Scottish Government is committed to safe, inclusive and meaningful engagement with children and young people and to ensuring that the views of children and young people are at the heart of the decisions that affect them.

In October 2019, an Access Working Group was established to consider how best to support and promote wider engagement with children and young people so that they could participate in decision-making, and to look at the methods that might be best utilised - including digital media.

During January and February 2020, a survey was issued to gather views on how stakeholders worked with children and young people to support their participation in decision-making, and to identify barriers respondents had experienced or witnessed that had hindered this engagement. The survey received 451 responses. Young Scot also facilitated two sessions with a number of children and young people from the #ActivateYourRights cohort via Zoom in April 2020. This was used to gain insight into their digital engagement experience as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.

In March 2020, we published the 'Decision-making: children and young people's participation' guidance to provide best practice guidance to support those who engage with children and young people as part of their decision-making. This was developed with an expert working group with representatives from a range of third sector organisations, local authorities, health boards and academia, all working in the field of children's rights with a focus on participation in Scotland. A small group of young people also reviewed some of the content.

The section entitled 'Participation' of the aforementioned guidance, sets out the nine basic requirements (as recommended in General Comment 12 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which was published as a non-binding interpretive aid to the UNCRC) for effective participation of children and young people. This states that participation should be transparent and informative; voluntary; respectful; relevant to children and young people; child-friendly; inclusive; supported by training; safe and sensitive to risk and accountable. It also states that participation should also be viewed as a process, not a one-off event, and tokenistic approaches must be avoided. The Scottish Government remain committed to including these requirements in our strategic rights-based approach to participation, to ensure children and young people are not only engaged, but are able to safely and meaningfully participate in decision making, and influence decision makers in solution-based discussions.

Participation at National Level

Over the past three years, the Scottish Government has taken a number of steps to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard at the highest levels of Government, on issues that matter most to them, with the aim of improving policy and legislation development and implementation. These have included:

  • Holding an annual meeting of Cabinet members with children and young people. These meetings have taken place since 2017, and have enabled children and young people to raise issues that matter to them and to inform the Scottish Government's agenda over the coming year. The issues raised by children and young people at these meetings have been wide ranging, including those relating to schools, bullying, mental health, incorporation of the UNCRC, Human Rights Defenders, and the future of Scotland's relationship with Europe. At the end of each of the meetings, children, young people and Cabinet members have collectively agreed actions for the year ahead and published progress reports on the actions agreed. The latest report on progress made on the actions agreed at the fourth annual meeting of Cabinet members and children and young people, held on 3 March 2020, was published in March 2021, and the last annual meeting of Cabinet members with children and young people took place online on 16 March 2021.
  • Holding two First Minister's Question Times, facilitated by YouthLink Scotland and Children in Scotland, in September 2018 and April 2019. These gave children and young people the opportunity to put their questions directly to Scotland's First Minister.
  • Arranging for members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to have the opportunity to engage with the Scottish Government's Executive Team, including the Permanent Secretary and Directors General. The most recent meeting took place in November 2021.

Over the last three years, young people have also become more involved in Government groups, forums and taskforces. Examples have included:

  • Young people representatives being members of the Scottish Government's Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group.
  • Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament attending the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group; the Scottish Education Council; the Mental Health Equalities and Human Rights Forum; the Scottish Government's Race Equality in Education Stakeholder Group; the National Qualification Group; the Gender Equality Taskforce and the Children and Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board.

In addition to children and young people being directly involved in Government groups, we have also continued to fund a number of third sector organisations, including the Scottish Youth Parliament, the Children's Parliament and Young Scot, to lead on participation and engagement with children and young people through core grants and through specific pieces of commissioned work.Examples of how children and young people have been able to be involved in informing and shaping decision-making, policy and action plans have included:

  • Children and Young People's Panel on Europe - In 2018, the Scottish Government provided funding to Children in Scotland to enable them to set up this Panel which was delivered in partnership with Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights). The Panel included members from all over Scotland, aged 8-19, and met several times to articulate the views of children and young people on Brexit and the issues it raised for them. Further funding was provided to allow this work to continue until September 2020. The Panel identified EU funding as one of four areas of most concern to children and young people in the context of Brexit. The other three were: the economy, trade and jobs; rights; and opportunities to work, study and travel. In their report, the Panel called for any losses to youth funding which arose through Brexit to be replaced. They also urged the Scottish Government to seek continued participation in Erasmus+. Scottish Ministers, including the First Minister, met Panel members on a number of occasions and issued statements supporting their work. Ministers have noted the Panel's concerns and these have helped to inform their continuing work in the aftermath of Brexit.
  • The Independent Care Review -which listened very carefully to those with experience of living and working in and around the 'care system' to properly understand what needed to change. The Care Review heard over 5,500 experiences, of which over half were children, young people and adults who had lived in care. It was their stories that guided the Care Review and their experiences have shaped everything the Care Review concluded. The work of the whole Care Review culminated in the publication of 7 outputs on the 5th February 2020, the main volume of which was The Promise.
  • Our Hearings, Our Voice - which is an independent board for children and young people from across Scotland between the ages of 8-18, who have experience of the Children's Hearings System. In 2021 they launched an interactive Zine online in which the young people shared their 40 Calls to Action.
  • Views gathered from children and young people themselves were also key to informing the vision and priorities in the recently published A Rights- Respecting Approach to Justice for Children and Young People. This engagement included eliciting support from the Youth Parliament, and the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum/ Children and Young People's Centre for Justice Youth Justice Voices participation project. Members of their youth-led steering group 'YouthJustUs' became Youth Justice Visionaries to develop a guide to be used by practitioners working with children and young people. Young people in HMP&YOI Polmont were also asked for their thoughts and opinions through one-to-one phone calls and group sessions delivered by Barnardos.

Participation of Learners

Pupil participation and learner engagement are vital aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence approach and we know that when pupils have a strong voice in shaping the life and work of their school, this has a positive impact on their attainment and achievement. In schools, learner participation is core to a good education and as part of all educational experience, it is children and young people's right to have a say in matters that affect them. The Scottish Government encourages meaningful participation of children and young people in the life and work of their school and this is supported by guidance for school staff and improvement support to schools via Education Scotland.

During the COVID-19 education recovery process, we strengthened the voice of children and young people by working with Young Scot and Children in Scotland to establish and support the Education Recovery Youth Panel which helped to input into recovery issues between Nov 2020 and June 2021.

As announced on 22nd June 2021, the Scottish Government will further support and enhance the participation of children and young people by including young people in the membership of the Scottish Education Council (SEC) and by establishing a Children and Young People's Education Council (CYPEC). The CYPEC will have parity of esteem with the SEC and ensure that the voices of children and young people in Scottish schools reach directly into the heart of decision making.

The remit of both the SEC and the CYPEC are expected to be broad and to cover all matters relating to education and schools, which would encompass climate education and Learning for Sustainability (LfS). In addition, and on the specific theme of climate education, the Scottish Government continues to engage with the young person-led Teach the Future campaign as we seek to strengthen our approach to LfS.

Participation and COVID

The Scottish Government has taken steps throughout the crisis to hear the views, concerns and lived experiences of children and young people in relation to COVID-19 and to empower them to participate in the decisions around the response that affect them. We have also continued to make sure that we listen to representative voices of children and young people, in particular ensuring that the voices of the seldom heard, vulnerable and younger children and families are heard, by working in collaboration with a range of stakeholders who have existing and trusting relationships with various groups of children and young people. More details of the work which has been undertaken with children and young people during the pandemic can be read in Section 2.

Participation and the UNCRC Implementation Programme

As mentioned in Section 1.1, to support the meaningful and inclusive participation of children and young people in the implementation programme, and to support the work of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board, during 2021, we have been exploring with stakeholders the establishment of a consortium of organisations that have already built strong, trusting relationships with children and young people across Scotland and which can be engaged regularly to enable children and young people's participation at a national level. The intention would be to include children's rights organisations who operate at a national level, as well as organisations that work in specific communities. It is expected that this consortium of organisations would engage with children and young people in ways that are most appropriate for them, thereby ensuring the participation of the most vulnerable and excluded groups, those most commonly not engaged in participation work and those most likely to not have their rights respected.

As also discussed in Section 1.1, in order to ensure children and young people are at the heart of the UNCRC implementation programme and the Strategic Implementation Board before the consortium above is established, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights) have established an Interim Consortium, made up of children and young people representing 6 organisations[8], along with a number of wider associate organisations. The Interim Consortium met for the first time in October 2021.

The UNCRC implementation programme will continue to build on work undertaken by the Scottish Government since 2018 to develop a strategic approach to children and young people's participation, which seeks to establish a more coordinated, systematic and sustainable approach to engaging with children and young people at national and local levels.

1.4 Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment

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

The non-statutory Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA), which was introduced in 2015, seeks 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.

The CRWIA is promoted across the Scottish Government as a key tool in the development of policy and is assisting officials and other relevant organisations who choose to use this resource, to take a rights-based approach to the development of relevant policies, legislation, services, and significant investment decisions ensuring that children's rights, wellbeing and voices are at the heart of policy development.

In the 2018 Action Plan, the Scottish Government committed to evaluate the CRWIA and further support and promote its use by:

  • Updating templates, guidance and training materials for the CRWIA process, making these publicly available on the Scottish Government website.
  • Encouraging the use of the CRWIA materials by public authorities and children and young people's organisations.
  • Developing an impact evaluation process for the CRWIA.

Following an independent review of the CRWIA; updated guidance, associated CRWIA templates and training materials were published on the Scottish Government website in March 2019. Work then began in September 2020 to determine the scope of a full review of the CRWIA. This sought to evaluate the procedures and outcomes of the CRWIA, allowing us to develop and create an efficient, effective and accessible process, and consisted of a range of engagement with internal and external stakeholders.

As a result of this engagement and evaluation, new templates and updated guidance have recently been published on the Scottish Government website for anyone to use[9]. These updated materials also meet Scottish Government accessibility legislation. We will continue to gather feedback from anyone using the templates and guidance to ensure they are continuously improved. Work to improve the CRWIA training and to develop an impact evaluation process for the CRWIA also continues.

The Scottish Government has taken steps throughout the reporting period to raise awareness of the CRWIA process and materials and to promote their use across public authorities, including as part of visits and online meetings. This has also supported individual authorities in meeting their reporting duties under Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

The Scottish Government has also continued to place a children's rights awareness raising objective within the terms of grant allocations to third sector organisations who receive core funding from the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention and Adult Learning and Empowering Communities Fund.[10] Since 2019, an indicator for this objective has been that organisations 'will evidence that they have considered the rights and wellbeing of children and young people by completing a CRWIA for the creation and development of their policies and procedures'. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was agreed that organisations did not need to report on their use of CRWIAs for the 2021 report. Information was, however, still collected for this year and will be published in the 2022 report. Despite the difficulties and challenges many organisations have faced in light of the pandemic, over 80 organisations have either already begun to review their policies and procedures with a CRWIA or have a plan in place to do so for next year.

CRWIA Provisions in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill

As discussed at section 1.1 above, provision was made in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill (the "UNCRC Bill") to place a statutory duty on Ministers to prepare and publish CRWIAs for new Bills introduced by the Scottish Ministers and most Scottish statutory instruments made by Scottish Ministers. As noted previously, Ministers are carefully considering the Supreme Court judgment, and the implications for the UNCRC Bill.

The Bill, as passed by the Scottish Parliament on 16 March 2021, provides that Ministers would also need to prepare and publish CRWIAs in relation to decisions of a strategic nature relating to the rights and wellbeing of children as required by, and in accordance with, arrangements which would be set out in the Children's Rights Scheme. The UNCRC Bill would not place a statutory duty on all public authorities to undertake CRWIAs in policy development. This is in line with the comments made by UNICEF UK during the public consultation on the draft Bill that this might place an unnecessary burden on wider levels of government.

CRWIA and COVID-19

Our approach to CRWIAs continues to support and inform our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, a full CRWIA was prepared and published in respect of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. CRWIAs were also undertaken in respect of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Act 2020; the Education (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020; closure and reopening of schools; restrictions on children and young people; the Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill, teacher and lecturer estimates - 2020 results; and the temporary closure of child contact centres at level 4 for in person contact.

The CRWIA also informed Scotland's response to COVID in 2021, including in respect of the Education (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2021, the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021; the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill; the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No.21) Regulations 2021; the Community Orders (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2021; and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): shielding social care workers support scheme.

A list of CRWIAs prepared by the Scottish Government, including in response to the pandemic and the ongoing recovery, is available on the Scottish Government's website.

1.5 Governance Arrangements

To provide a leadership space to discuss ideas and issues to make children's rights real in Scotland and oversee the 2018 action plan.

High-level oversight of progress made in relation to the strategic actions in the 2018 action plan was initially provided by the Improving Outcomes for Children and Young People Strategic Forum. This Forum was chaired jointly by the Scottish Government Director of Children and Families and the Director of Learning and included representatives from local government, public authorities and the third sector.

In March 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, governance activity turned its focus to the collective response to the health emergency and its impact for children and young people, especially those who were vulnerable. In May 2020, the Scottish Government established a COVID-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group (the Collective Leadership Group). Co-chaired by the Scottish Government and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE), the Collective Leadership Group includes members from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), Police Scotland, the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA), Children's Hearings Scotland (CHS), as well as representatives from health, education, social work, the third sector and other key organisations. The Collective Leadership Group continues to meet monthly.

In 2021 the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board (the Board) was convened to provide strategic and collaborative oversight and leadership of the three-year UNCRC implementation programme and this includes representation from leaders in the children's rights sector and public authorities. The inaugural meeting of the Board took place on 1 July 2021 and the Board is currently meeting monthly to provide strategic vision, to oversee delivery and to monitor progress of the programme. The Terms of Reference for the Board have been published on the Scottish Government website[11], along with the minutes of each meeting.

As discussed previously, to support the meaningful and inclusive participation of children and young people in the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board and wider implementation programme, we are also working to establish a consortium of organisations that have strong, trusting relationships with children and young people across Scotland. In September 2021 an Interim Consortium, made up of children and young people representing 6 organisations[12], along with a number of wider associate organisations was established and met for the first time in October 2021.

In addition to the governance arrangements outlined above, a cross-government group of Directors within the Scottish Government also continues to ensure co-ordinated approaches to policy and outcomes relevant to the rights and wellbeing of children and young people.


Contact

Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot