The coronavirus and the world’s response to it is the biggest challenge we have faced in a very long time in terms of children’s human rights, and it’s some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children and young people who risk being affected the most.
This page sets out some of what needs to happen to make sure those children and young people have their rights respected, protected and fulfilled.
What needs to happen to protect the human rights of children and young people in poverty?
Pay families directly, but provide other options
The safest and most dignified way to support families is to give them a direct payment of £20 a week― so the Scottish Government should urgently introduce a national direct payment scheme. That will help make sure that families can feed their children.
For some families, options other than direct payments will be better. Because of this, alternatives such as food deliveries should be offered as part of the scheme.
Free school meals should be provided consistently across Scotland
Local authorities are working hard to support those who get free school meals, but work by our office shows this support is inconsistent. It’s delivered in different ways, and sometimes families are expected to travel to collect free lunches at their own expense.
How can we reduce the impact of digital exclusion on children’s human rights?
When people create services for you to use they often assume that everyone has access to the internet all the time. If someone doesn’t, they may find it more difficult – or even impossible – to access a service, and when that happens we say they are digitally excluded. For example, a child without home internet access would be digitally excluded if they were asked to research a topic online.
Two common ways in which Scotland’s children and young people are digitally excluded are:
- because of the cost of internet and devices used to access the internet
- because of the poor availability of broadband in many rural parts of the country, especially in the Highlands and Islands.
More in the Rights questions and answers section
Head teachers, teachers and school support staff have put an incredible amount of work into getting schoolwork organised and online for children in a very short space or time. But many children have limited access – or no access – to tablets or laptops, so won’t be able to access these resources. And many children in rural areas can’t access resources due to the poor availability of broadband where they live.
Before lockdown our office had heard from children and young people that they’d been unable to complete homework or coursework because of digital exclusion. But they were able to access what they needed in school time. They can’t do that now, so we need to make sure that children aren’t missing out on their rights to education during what could be many months away from school.
What needs to happen to protect the education rights of care experienced children and young people?
The Scottish Government must not forget their obligations to care experienced children and young people
Even when it’s business as usual, care experienced children can have their rights to education compromised. The Scottish Government is obliged to give care experienced children special care and assistance, and now more than ever this needs to be the case.
We cannot allow care experienced children to miss out on any more education.
Residential workers must be supported to help care experienced children learn
Residential workers must be supported so they can deliver on children’s learning. We know they aren’t teachers – and no one expects them to be – but neither are most of the parents now supporting their children to learn at home. Care experienced children are already at a disadvantage in terms of education, and we need to make sure they don’t end up even further behind.
Digital exclusion of care experienced children and young people needs to be addressed
Children and young people can experience digital exclusion while in care, as in some settings their access to the internet is limited. They need access to what they need to be able to learn in the same way as their peers.
What needs to happen to protect the human rights of disabled children and young people?
Children and young people with disabilities, or other additional support needs, still have the right to receive and education. It is really important that education authorities work with children and families to find creative ways to provide it.
We need to make sure the services that families rely on are still able to deliver in the pandemic, to take some of the pressure off families of disabled children and support their mental health and wellbeing. Some parents are reporting they have lost support from areas such as health, social care and the third sector.