Supporting disabled children, young people and their families: guidance

Guidance to help improve the experiences of disabled children, young people, and their families.

Rights Awareness

In this section you can find out…

What are human rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which we are all entitled in order to live with dignity, equality and fairness, and to develop and reach our potential.

Everyone has these Rights, no matter their circumstances.

Nobody can take these rights away from us and they are there to ensure we are protected and treated fairly throughout our lives, regardless of our background.

The Scottish Government participates in UK reporting to the United Nations and the Council of Europe on its international human rights treaty obligations. This ensures that Scotland’s distinctive approach is communicated on a global stage and allows our progress on implementation to be continually monitored.

There are nine core international human rights treaties, of which seven have been ratified by the UK, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Disabled people should be able to enjoy their human rights on an equal basis with non-disabled people.

Disabled people continue, in practice, to face a wide range of barriers. The Convention sets out the measures governments are expected to take to remove them and to ensure that the rights of disabled people are respected. Find out more about what we are doing to remove barriers in Scotland.

Our commitment to the principles of this Convention are set out in the Fairer Scotland for Disabled People Delivery Plan. We also develop and share easily accessible resources such as this Easy Read version of the Convention. 

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC): Sets out the overarching standards for supporting children. All of its rights are underpinned by four general principles: non-discrimination; best interests of the child as a primary consideration; the right to life, survival and development; and the right to have children’s views given due weight.

The UNCRC also provides children and young people with a series of individual rights, such as the right to a name and nationality, the right to education, the right to health, the right to play and recreation, and the right to an adequate standard of living – alongside additional rights for specific groups, such as disabled children.  An Easy Read Guide about the UNCRC is available on the Scottish Government’s website.

These conventions help to protect the rights of disabled children and young people.

In addition, part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 requires Scottish Ministers to: consider whether there are any steps which they could take that would or might secure better or further effect in Scotland of the UNCRC; take into account the views of children and young people, as appropriate; promote public awareness and understanding of children’s rights; and report to the Scottish Parliament every 3 years on relevant progress.   The Scottish Government has produced a Quick Reference Guide on the Rights of Children and how we legislate to protect them.

Further advice and information on human rights and the Equality Act 2010 are available at the Equality Advisory Service, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission

The Equality Act 2010 places a duty upon the Scottish Government to integrate an equality perspective into the everyday work of government. Scotland will also be the first nation of the United Kingdom to commence the socioeconomic duty section of the Equality Act 2010. This duty will mean that when certain public bodies are making “strategic decisions” such as deciding what their priorities are and setting objectives, they will have to consider how these decisions may help reduce the inequalities that are linked with socioeconomic disadvantage. The new duty should have a positive impact for disabled children, young people and their families, who experience both higher poverty rates and greater social inequality than non-disabled people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission provide guidance and information on the Act.

Further advice and information on human rights and the Equality Act 2010 are available at the Equality Advisory Service, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission

How are we supporting the rights of disabled children in Scotland?

The Scottish Government is working hard to realise human rights for adults and children in Scotland, but we recognise that there is much still to do. The Programme for Government published in September 2017 – A Nation With Ambition: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2017-18 includes many new commitments that will advance human rights in Scotland – and will be inclusive of disabled children and young people. For example, the Scottish Government committed to undertaking an audit to explore the most effective and practical way to further embed the principles of the UNCRC into legislation, policy and practice.  To further strengthen children’s rights in Scotland, Scottish Ministers announced, in the Programme for Government 2018-2019, a commitment to incorporating the principles of the UNCRC into domestic law.

In addition to this, the Scottish Government committed to developing through co-production, an ambitious 3 year programme to raise awareness and understanding of children’s rights across all sectors;

In line with Article 12 of the UNCRC we want children and young people’s voices to be heard and respected. It is important to us that all children and young people, including disabled children and young people, influence national and local policy including public services and the decisions that are made which affect their lives.

As part of the development of this resource, a Young Disabled People’s Forum has been established to provide an inclusive space for young people with a disability to come together regularly and engage with the issues that interest and affect them and feed into policy making.

There are a number of national organisations committed to ensuring that human and children’s rights are upheld. For example, the Scottish Human Rights Commission is an independent public body that promotes and protects human rights for everyone.

The general function of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (“the Commissioner”) is to promote and safeguard the rights of children and young people. The Commissioner does this in a variety of ways including raising awareness about children’s rights.    The Commissioner has a useful website with lots of resources for young people.

Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) is an alliance of Scottish children’s charities that works to improve the awareness, understanding and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The Scottish Government has also previously developed national policies for people with learning disabilities and for people with autism which are still relevant to the children, young people and families who might also benefit from this resource. This site aims to be helpful to all children and young people with the widest possible definition of disability.

This website is does not relate to a particular medical condition, however, the Scottish Government published an implementation framework for the delivery of Scotland Learning Disability Strategy – The Keys to Life. Visit the Keys to Life Strategy website for more information on the vision for children, adults and older adults who have learning disabilities.

The Scottish Strategy for Autism is based on a vision that autistic children, young people and adults in Scotland are respected, accepted and valued by their communities and have confidence in services to treat them fairly, so that they are able to have meaningful lives.

Following a national dialogue and consultation with autistic people, their families and carers, the Outcomes Approach will be refreshed, which will reflect the priorities to take forward up to 2021. For more information, you can visit the Scottish Strategy for Autism’s website.

Where can I learn more about my rights?

The website for the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland provides lots of information for children and young people, their families and adults working with them on children’s rights, as well as where to get support.

Inclusion Scotland leads the national work on reporting to the UN Committee on the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled people, working closely with disabled people and their organisations.

The Scottish Youth Parliament is the democratically elected voice of Scotland's young people.

An example of a young disabled person exercising their rights – Lisa’s Story



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