United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: consultation analysis

Analysis of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) consultation responses and events which took place over summer 2019.

1. Introduction 

Arad Research was commissioned by the Scottish Government to analyse and report on the responses the Scottish Government’s consultation on incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law in Scotland. 

1.1 About the consultation 

The Scottish Government’s mission is to achieve the national outcome for children and young people as set out in the Protecting Scotland's Future: the Government's Programme for Scotland 2019-2020:”we grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential”. The Scottish Government believes delivering the rights of children and young people, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), is fundamental to making children’s rights real and Scotland the best place in the world to grow up. This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the UNCRC, the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced. The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, covering all aspects of a child’s life. 

To underline its commitment, the Scottish Government intends to deliver new legislation in this parliamentary session to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law. In line with the Programme for Government 2018-19 commitment, this consultation sought views on the best way of incorporating the UNCRC within the context of Scots law, public services and the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The complete consultation document is available online on the Scottish Government’s website.

1.2 Approach to analysis

1.2.1 Consultation responses

A total of 162 responses were received to this consultation. Table 1.1. below presents detail on the different categories of respondent that contributed to the consultation (organisations were categorised based on advice from the Scottish Government). There were significantly higher numbers of responses from some types of respondent than others. The analysis in this report refers to the proportions of different types of respondent which raised particular views; however, significant caution must be taken in interpreting these proportions, due to the very low numbers of responses from particular types of respondent.  

Table 1.1: Total number of consultation responses, by type of respondent

Respondent type Total number
Individuals 30
Public bodies 29
Third sector 91
Academics 7
Legal profession/organisation 3
Other 1
Unspecified organisation 1
Total 162

1.2.2 Analysis methodology

Inception and scoping phase

Arad initially held an inception meeting with the Scottish Government to confirm the analytical approach, timescales for analysis and reporting, the format for presenting indicative high-level findings and the final report, and arrangements for transferring / managing data. Arad subsequently reviewed relevant consultation documentation to ensure that all members of the team were familiar with the policy context, proposals and consultation questions. 

Initial review of responses

Arad first reviewed a sample of responses in an exploratory method. Based on available timescales, the total number of consultation responses received and previous experience of undertaking public consultation analyses, Arad judged it appropriate to review 50 responses to each question during this stage, to ensure appropriate coverage in this analysis. The purpose of this stage was to identify key response themes, types of respondent groups (individuals, organisations etc) and variation in depth of responses. The sample of responses was selected at random, ensuring that a different 50 responses to each question was selected for this initial review. The exploratory method focused on allowing researchers to identify key views or points arising in responses without reference to a previously established or assumed framework. 

The research team used the findings from the initial review to develop an overarching analytical framework which guided the analysis of all remaining responses in a consistent manner. This process involved collaboration between researchers to agree a consistent approach to assigning themes to responses, identifying differences in views raised by different types of respondent and reporting. 

Indicative high-level overview

Following the initial review stage, Arad presented a high-level indicative findings paper to the Scottish Government. This paper presented an initial overview of the main (and most frequently recurring) themes and views expressed per question, without elaborating on the supporting arguments or rationale in detail. 

Full thematic analysis

Once the overarching analysis framework was established, the main analysis of consultation took place. This analysis occurred by means of an evidence log, which logged (or coded) the constituent group and a variety of themes arising in the responses. Qualitative analysis software was available to coders to facilitate this process where necessary. All consultation responses were analysed, and final analysis and reporting was facilitated by an easily navigated evidence log. 

Responses which did not directly follow the consultation question structure

Out of the 162 responses, 36 were submitted in Word or PDF form (i.e. not submitted directly through the online consultation form). Each of these 36 responses was logged in the overarching evidence log alongside the online responses and was analysed. 

1. Some of these Word or PDF responses followed the structure of the consultation questions to at least some extent (some answered the majority of the consultation questions, whereas some only answered a few). These responses were analysed in the same way as those submitted online and have therefore been included in quantitative data and qualitative analysis presented under relevant questions.

2. Other responses did not strictly follow the structure of the consultation questions. These were all reviewed firstly with the aim of identifying commentary which did in fact relate directly to particular questions – this commentary was then analysed as per step 1 above. 

3. Commentary which did not directly relate to a particular question was also analysed, with findings presented in section 6 of this report. 

4. With regard to the closed questions in the consultation (those which required a yes/no/don’t know response), all 36 Word or PDF responses were reviewed during steps 1 and 2 to identify whether the respondent had clearly stated a yes/no/don’t know opinion. If so, these responses have been counted within the closed question data.  For example, if a response had started their response to a particular question by writing”yes, we agree that…”, this was logged as a ‘yes’ response to the relevant closed question. Word or PDF responses which did not express a clear, unequivocal opinion was entered as ‘not specified’ in the closed question.

Quality assurance

The Project Director was the team’s designated quality assurer during the study. The Project Director oversaw the analysis process, ensuring that all consultation questions, regardless of how they were submitted, were analysed consistently and fully in line with the framework agreed with the Scottish Government. The designated quality assurer also took overall responsibility for reviewing outputs, including the final analysis report and accompanying datasets.

This report

The analysis presented in this report is based on an analysis of all consultation responses. The analysis is presented for each individual consultation question (grouped under three Themes, as in the consultation document). The three Themes are:

  • legal mechanisms for incorporating the UNCRC into domestic law;
  • embedding children’s rights in public services; and
  • enabling compatibility and remedies.

The analysis for each question contains:

  • Data from closed questions (yes / no / don’t know) where relevant. This data is presented in two different tables.
    • In each case, the first table presents data including respondents who did not answer the closed question. These respondents appear as two separate categories: ‘not answered’ applies to those who completed the online consultation and did not select a particular response; ‘not specified’ applies to those of the 36 Word or PDF responses which did not state an unequivocal yes/no/don’t know response, even if they did discuss the relevant question. 
    • The second table presents findings excluding those respondents who either did not answer or did not specify a response. 
    • This method ensures the proportions of respondents who agree or disagree with the closed question can be interpreted appropriately.
  • A note on the number of respondents who provided written comments in relation to each question. Throughout the report, we have provided information on the number of respondents who expressed particular views. In some cases there is reference to ‘few’ or ‘several’ respondents. As a guide, where reference is made in the report to ‘few’, this corresponds to three or fewer respondents. The term ‘several’ refers to more than three but typically fewer than ten. 
  • A discussion of key views and issues arising in these written comments, with those views or issues raised most frequently or by the largest number of respondents presented first for each question. 
  • Notes on how prominently each view arose in the responses of different population groups. Section 1.2.1 (above) explains that significant caution must be exercised when interpreting theses proportions, due to the very low numbers of responses from some respondent types. 
  • Finally, although a large number of responses were received overall, it is worth underlining that the views presented here should not be taken as representative of the wide range of stakeholders invited to respond to this consultation, nor should they be generalised too broadly. This analysis reflects only the views of those individuals and organisations who chose to respond. 

In this document we use the term ‘direct incorporation’ to refer to a method of incorporation that takes the content of an international convention and gives it effect in domestic law – essentially by lifting the wording from the international convention and putting it into domestic law. Some respondents use the term ‘full incorporation’ to describe this model of incorporation. Where the term ‘full incorporation’ is used in excerpts from responses, this has not been changed. 

Section 5 includes a stand-alone analysis of 13 responses which specifically represented the views of children and young people. These 13 responses are also considered within the overall analysis in sections 2, 3 and 4.

Appendix A includes a list of consultation respondents who agreed to have their responses published (either including or excluding an individual’s name).


Email: alexandra.devoy@gov.scot

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