Children's hearings training resource manual: volume 2

Volume 2 is a children's hearings handbook, focusing on the problems that some children face, the environment in which they live, their needs and their rights.

4 Children's Rights

For children, part of the process of growing up is the gradual acquiring of rights and responsibilities. Most people can remember when they weren't allowed to do something because they were too young. But sometimes it seems as if society can't make up its mind about what it means to be a child and there is no rhyme or reason behind the different age limits that are set.

In different parts of the world there are huge variations in attitudes to children and to rights accorded to them.

The United N a tions Convention on the Ri g hts of the Child ( UNCRC) was formally adopted by the UN general Assembly in 1989 and ratified by the UK in 1991. It sets minimum international standards relating to children's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The E u ropean Convention on Human R i g hts ( ECHR) was ratified by the UK in 1951 but was not formally adopted into UK law until the introduction of the Human Rights Act in October 2000. ECHR affords rights to all and does not specifically afford rights to children. (See History & Principles.)

Views about children have changed over time. In 19th century Britain, very young children were employed in factories and little boys were used as chimney sweeps because they could climb into narrow spaces. Education was not universal nor considered necessary. Children were expected to be seen and not heard. Bad behaviour was dealt with by severe physical punishment.

Now strict labour laws control the hours and conditions of children's work. Corporal punishment is no longer permitted in schools but there is still debate about whether it should be illegal for parents to hit their children. Children's rights to instruct solicitors and to refuse consent to medical treatment are now recognised in law. The principle is gradually becoming accepted that systems and services, such as law, the health service, and residential care and so on, should be adapted for children rather than the other way round, though in many cases there is still a gap between principles and practice.

Market forces have recognised children and teenagers as consumers with the right to choose their own styles of dress and entertainment. At the same time there has been a gradual shift towards recognising the rights of children to make choices and to express views about other aspects of their lives. However, the powerlessness of children to do this in certain situations, particularly where they are being abused or bullied has also been realised. Agencies such as the Scottish Child Law Centre, ChildLine and Who Cares? offer advice to children and young people, inform them of their rights and help them to make their voices heard.

The Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 stresses the idea of parental responsibilities towards children rather than rights over them. The importance of seeking and taking into account their views is enshrined in the Act. The hearings system has a crucial part to play in putting these principles into practice. It is important that all involved in the hearings system protect the rights of children, whilst recognising the rights of others.

Children's rights embodied in the Act are the right to:

  • be treated as an individual
  • have a view
  • have that view taken into consideration
  • protection from all forms of abuse, neglect or exploitation
  • family life whenever possible
  • have any intervention fully justified
  • attend their own hearing
  • know what decisions are being made and why.

Children's Rights and Responsibilities

From birth have a bank account; be employed as an actor / actress - with a licence; be referred to a children's hearing (on care and protection grounds); make a complaint if being discriminated against on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin or sexuality; make a complaint against the police.
3 receive a place in a nursery class.
5 start to receive education; be given alcohol in private at home; pay a child's fare on public transport; go to a U / UC film - although the manager can refuse admittance.
7 take money out of a Giro account; go to a 'U' certificate film.
8 be considered capable of committing an offence - in England would have to be 10 and 14 in Germany. Between the ages of 8 and 12, offences will not normally be dealt with by the court; go to a PG (parental guidance) film.
12 buy a pet; give consent to or refuse adoption; make a will; instruct a solicitor, provided it is understood what is involved; register as an organ donor without parental consent; be considered to have a view to express in legal proceedings; pay full fare on scheduled flights - charter flights can be different; apply to the Child Support Agency; make a freedom of information request to a public body.
13 get a weekday job (2 hours only); a Saturday / Sunday job between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.; join a social networking site.
14 go into a bar (if the owner does not object) but cannot buy drink; own/ borrow an air rifle - but must be supervised by someone over 21 if in public; be responsible for wearing a seatbelt in a car or bus.
15 use a shotgun - if supervised by someone over 21.
16 leave school; leave home with parental consent unless leaving a neglectful or abusive situation; get married; change name without parental consent; consent to homosexual relationship (but not with someone in a position of trust); pay full fare on public transport; consent to sexual intercourse; get a skin piercing without parental consent; consent to or refuse medical treatment (this may be at an earlier age if medical professionals believe there is an understanding of the consequences); buy or be given a drink (not spirits) with a meal at the manager's discretion; buy liqueur chocolates; get a full time job - pay income tax and national insurance and get a national insurance number; join a trade union; claim some benefits; get a licence for a moped, tractor; get a glider pilot's licence; buy premium bonds, lottery tickets; open a Giro account; enter a legal contract; apply for a bank account, mortgage, passport; be legally responsible when babysitting (though it is not illegal to leave children with someone under 16 - parents would be held responsible if something untoward happened); join the armed forces with parental consent (but will not be allowed on active service until aged 18); be a community councillor (in some areas); be dealt with in the district / sheriff court; be sent to a young offender's institution.
17 get a licence to drive a car / motor cycle; apply for a firearms certificate; apply for a street trader's licence; hold a pilot's licence; leave home without parental consent; give blood.
18 vote in an election; stand for election as a local authority councillor, an MSP, an MP; claim income support; get tattooed; place a bet; buy alcohol; drink alcohol in a pub; buy cigarettes and tobacco; serve on jury duty; see any film; drive a lorry (up to 7.5 tonnes); carry a donor card; get a credit card; buy fireworks; apply for a mortgage, own houses and land.
21 stand for election as an MEP; drive any vehicle; supervise a learner driver (if a full driving licence has been held for three years); obtain a liquor licence; run a betting shop; be sent to prison.
Main source: Scottish Government website "at what age can I?...."


The United Nations (the UN) was set up to make the world peaceful and fair. A convention is a set of rules that countries agree to abide by.


(United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child)

  • Apply to every child from birth to 18 years.
  • The Scottish Government is obliged to try its best to ensure these rights happen here.
  • As well as the UNCRC children and young people can claim rights under ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights).
  • To ensure that children's rights are kept to the forefront of everyone's mind, they have appointed a Commissioner for Children and Young People.

What is says about …

Freedom, Fairness and Having a say

  • Children have the right not to be treated unfairly because they are children.
  • Children have a right to expect decisions made for them are the best for them.
  • Children have the right to their say in any decisions which affect them.
  • Children have a right to a name and to belong to a country.
  • Children have the right to find out things and express themselves provided it does not hurt anyone else.
  • Children have the right to meet together and when they do nor abuse the rights of other children.
  • Children can believe and think what they like.
  • Children can follow any religion.
  • Children have the right to privacy - their letters, diary and phone calls should be private to them.
  • Children have the right to seek information freely but be protected from harm.
  • Children have the right to speak their own language if they come from a minority group.
  • Children have the right to practice their own religion if they come from a minority group.
  • Children have the right not to be treated cruelly.

Being healthy

  • Children have a right to life.
  • Children have a right to be healthy.
  • Children have a right to have good care by adults who care for them.
  • Children have a right to care and support if they have a disability so they can live a full and independent life.
  • Children have a right to medical care if ill.
  • Children have a right to have enough money in their family to be properly cared for and to be healthy.

Education and things to do

  • Children have the right to an education.
  • Children have a right to play and join in other activities.
  • Children have a right to be involved in art and cultural activities.
  • Children have a right to education which should develop talent.
  • Children have a right to learn to care for other people and for the environment.
  • Children have the right to find out things and say what they want so long as it doesn't hurt other people.

Family life and being cared for

  • Children have the right to know who their parents are and be cared for then if this is possible.
  • Children have the right to never be hurt, abused or neglected by a person looking after them.
  • Children have the right to be brought up by their own parents if possible who should do what is best for them and listen to their opinions.
  • Children have the right to contact with both parents if they do not live together, unless it might be harmful.
  • Children have the right to be living together as a family and live in the same place if the children and families live in different countries.
  • Children have the right to respect for their religion, language and culture by their carers if they live away from their parents.
  • Children have the right to have a review of the situation and have a say in where they are staying if they live away from their parents.

Being safe and protected

  • Children have the right to be protected from getting involved in making, taking or selling harmful drugs.
  • Children have the right to be protected from sexual abuse.
  • Children have the right to get help to recover if they have been harmed or abused.
  • Children have the right not to be kidnapped or sold.
  • Children have the right not to be treated cruelly - if they break the law or are accused of breaking the law they should get the help they need to understand what is happening and be able to keep in touch with their family.
  • Children have the right not to do work which is bad for their health or education.
  • Children who are refugees have the right to be cared for properly and have the same rights as children who were born in Scotland.

Physical punishment

It is not illegal for an adult to smack a child but it is illegal for an adult to

  • Shake a child.
  • Hit them on the head.
  • Use an implement to strike a child (i.e. belt, slipper).


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