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The UNCRC is one of the few human rights instruments that directly says there are promises that States have to keep around the environment.
Article 24 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the right to the best health possible.
As part of that, it says that States should think about the dangers and risks of environmental pollution when they take steps to combat disease and malnutrition.
Article 29 of the UNCRC is about the aims of education. It says that one of these is to make sure children and young people develop respect for the natural environment.
What are some other rights impacted by the environment?
In 2016 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child held a Day of General Discussion around children’s rights and the environment. You can read the report of the Day here.
This report says that many more articles of the UNCRC are impacted by damage to the environment, even if this isn’t directly stated in the Convention’s text. These include:
When the SQA consulted around the 2021 appeals process, we raised concerns that their consultation wasn’t accessible to young people and didn’t encourage them to participate. Our own response to the consultation raised human rights concerns with the process.
In April we highlighted that the SQA’s Alternative Certification Model needed to take exceptional circumstances into account, just as they are in years where there isn’t a global pandemic. We also published an FAQ about how to ask for extra support at school.
And currently we’re continuing to highlight the need for these critical changes, sharing the concerns of young people and pointing to where Scottish Government can step in if needed.
Children and young people tend to be brought up by their birth parents, but some are brought up in other ways. Alternative care is a term used to describe these.
Some forms of alternative care are:
Unaccompanied children can also be placed in alternative care.
A Day of General Discussion is an event where the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child invites people from around the world to discuss a significant issue impacting children’s human rights.
These people include:
With secondary schools going back to full time learning, some young people will find they have been affected more than others by not being in school. This means that they have had a bigger interruption to their learning than others in their class, so they’ll need extra help.
Some reasons you might have been disproportionately affected are:
Schools need to make sure all young people are properly supported. It is important they do so for those who have been affected more than others due to the pandemic. That makes it more likely that grades will be fair when they are assessed.
You may need extra support to help you learn now that schools are back. Schools must provide you with the support you need – and help you work out what will help you best.
If you think you need extra support in some way, you should talk to someone at your school. Who this should be will be different from school to school, but some of the people it might be are:
When you talk to someone, you should explain why you think what has happened over the last two school years has affected you in a disproportionate way.
Your teachers should talk to you about what they will do to help you. For example, if you have missed school work they might arrange for you to have some extra support. You should talk to your teachers if you are concerned about how they will take your needs into account when you are doing assessments.
If you are not happy with the support you get, or aren’t offered extra support, you could make a formal complaint.
If you go to a local authority (Council) run school (which is almost all state schools in Scotland), the Council that runs your school will have details of its Complaints Policy on their website.
You should make your complaint in writing if you can and say that you are making a formal complaint under the Council’s complaints policy. You should provide as much detail as possible. You should address your complaint to your school’s Headteacher – if they are not the person who will deal with your complaint, then they should pass it on to the right person. You can ask [the person dealing with your complaint] to answer your complaint in writing.
If you’re still not happy you can ask the Council to look at it again. This is called a Stage 2 complaint. You should be told how to do this when they respond to your first complaint, but if not you should write to your Headteacher, telling them you want to make a Stage 2 complaint.
You can ask one of two independent bodies to look at your complaint.
If your complaint is about additional support needs you may be able to refer it to the Health and Education Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal for Scotland. (sometimes called the ASN Tribunal)
If your complaint was not about additional support needs, you can ask the Scottish Public Sector Ombudsman (SPSO) to look at it.
Both of these have lots of information about how to complain on their websites.
My Rights My Say are funded by the Scottish Government to help young people aged 12-15 exercise their rights to additional support. Enquire can provide advice to young people of any age and their parents. You can call them on 0345 123 2303 or visit their website.
“Young people have all experienced lockdown differently, but some have been forced to self-isolate, not had the in-school support they usually rely on, taken on additional burdens at home, and experienced many more challenges along the way. That is why it is so important that young people who feel they need it, know the ways they can get support, and use them if they feel they need to. So if you think you might need any extra help or support , or you’d like to know more about the options available to you, start by speaking to your school about the support you feel you need.
If you feel you need any additional support, that is where this FAQ comes in. It has been developed by the CYPCS team to provide you with some practical suggestions about what you can do if you think you are not being treated fairly.”
—Cameron Garrett, MSYP
It doesn’t have to.
The UK Government’s challenge will delay the Bill getting Royal Assent― where the Queen approves a Bill and so makes it become a law.
The UNCRC Incorporation Bill says it must come into force within six months of receiving Royal Assent. But that doesn’t mean children and young people in Scotland have to wait the full six months: they’ve already waited long enough.
After Royal Assent, the Scottish Government has the power to make the law commence before six months have passed.
Adult duty bearers across Scotland should work to make sure incorporation happens as soon as possible. Nothing about the UK Government’s challenge changes that.
The Scottish Parliament has limited powers, so there are some things it can’t make laws about.
The UK Government believes some parts of the Bill go beyond these powers, and these are the parts it is challenging.
But it is only challenging these parts, and not the Bill as a whole. If the challenge is successful, these parts of the Bill may change― but incorporation of some form will still happen in Scotland.
The four general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are that all children and young people:
Together, these four principles underpin how the Convention should be interpreted and put into practice.
Regulations for people arriving in Scotland from abroad have been amended so children in this situation no longer need to quarantine in hotels: you’re now able to self-isolate with your family instead.
Children have told us they’re worried that people aren’t getting rid of facemasks properly, and that people are forgetting about the environment because we’re so busy with Covid-19.
They’ve been unhappy to see so many disposable masks on the ground as litter. And they think people should use reusable face masks where they can, or other types of reusable face coverings.
Disposable masks can often only be used once. They’ve been in the news due to the amount of plastic waste they’ve generated.
Children often tell us they’re concerned about the environment, and that it’s not something adults think about enough. As Article 12 of the UNCRC says, this is an opinion which we should listen to and take seriously.
So we’ve agreed to highlight that this is something that matters a lot to them.
As it says, disposable face coverings and gloves can’t be recycled, so will be more damaging to the environment than reusable alternatives. But if you do use them, you should still make sure to put them in a bin.
It is important people are protected from crime – including crimes committed by children – and that victims are given some remedy.
However, this has to be balanced with the fact that some children in conflict with the law may have experienced difficulties in their childhood – such as poverty, family breakdown or drug and alcohol use –which has led to their behaviour.
Some of them may also be victims themselves.
Where the law says that a child should be punished for their actions in the criminal justice system, this can impact their future. States must recognise children’s vulnerability both as victims and perpetrators of crime.
Everyone has the right to a fair trial, whatever their age.
For children, this includes:
Children have the right to be assumed innocent of a crime until the prosecution – whoever brought a case against them to court – has proven they are guilty of it.
While a child is being tried, the media shouldn’t publish any information that might lead to them being identified by members of the public. This would include their name or address.
A child must be able to follow their trial and understand what’s going on. They must also be able to express their views, and the judge must properly take their views into account.
All of these rights are set out in Article 40 of the UNCRC.
A Compulsory Supervision Order is a formal order made by a Children’s Hearing. It’s for children who need additional protection or support.
When an Order like this is made, it means a child’s local authority has to support them and give their family help.
It also means there are certain rules the child has to follow. For example, they may have to live in a certain place, such as in secure care or a children’s house, away from their family.
As a result of these laws, many 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland are not recognised as children when they commit crimes. Instead, they are instead treated as adults in adult courts.
Secure accommodation is a place where children can go to get help if it isn’t safe to live at home because they might hurt themselves or someone else.
To make sure that they get the help they need and to keep them safe, they are locked in and can’t leave. It is a place that children should only go if there is no other place where they can get help.
It is important that children are involved in the decision to send them to secure accommodation. They should understand why it is in their best interest to be there.
There is an important difference in the UNCRC between rights to protection and rights to participation.
Rights to participation are about our ability to make decisions, such as voting or making decisions about medical treatment. For example, the law in Scotland says that under 16s can consent to medical treatment if a doctor believes they understand what the treatment or procedure means.
However, rights to protection exist to protect children from harm. Because punishing children, and treating them as adults when they commit crimes, can be harmful, Article 37 and Article 40 of the UNCRC are both protection rights.
That means that every child should enjoy them until they are 18.
UNCRC Article 37
UNCRC Article 40
Full incorporation means writing the whole of the UNCRC into Scots law— all of it, not just specific parts.
Direct incorporation means that the full legal text of the Convention would be written into Scots law— so no part of it is rewritten.
The Scottish Government has changed its guidance on when children and young people should wear face coverings— such as face masks.
You can find the new guidance here. It says that from 2nd November:
If you can’t wear a face covering for health reasons or because of a disability, you don’t have to. For example, you may be on the autistic spectrum and find the sensation of wearing a covering very distressing.
A face covering is a form of material which covers the mouth or nose. It can be cloth or textile, and can be reusable or disposable.
If you don’t feel able to wear a face covering, speak to your teachers or parent or carer. Your schools should respond well to this and provide you with support. If they don’t, you can show them this FAQ.
Your school should make sure that everyone understands that some young people may not be able to wear face coverings, and that you have a right to privacy about the reasons you aren’t able to wear one. Your school has a responsibility to make sure there is no bullying or stigma about not wearing a mask.
The Scottish Government has said that children and young people wearing face coverings in school will reduce the risk of Covid-19 being spread from person to person.
Reducing the spread helps protect the right to life of children and young people, their families, their teachers and everyone else in society.
The Government has said that face coverings may also decrease the risk that schools have to be closed due to outbreaks amongst the staff or pupils.
Wearing face coverings in some parts of secondary schools and on transport is only one part of reducing the spread of coronavirus at school:
We think the Scottish Government should have consulted with children and young people before it issued this new guidance.
As this is something that will affect children and young people, it’s important that you have a say.
Children and young people have the right to participate in all decisions which affect them, and this is something we’ve been asking Scottish Government to do throughout the pandemic.
Children and young people have done everything that’s been asked of them throughout this pandemic, but you need to understand the reasons why you’re now being asked to do more.
So it’s really important that the Scottish Government is clear why they have made these decisions.
They need to explain why they’re proportionate, necessary, lawful and time limited – and guided by scientific advice.
Scottish Government needs to set out their explanation and the evidence for it in a Children’s Rights Impact Assessment. This should also lay out the steps they’ll take to lessen the decision’s impact on your rights
These decisions must be kept under review.
Schools should work with children and young people on how they will implement the changes and on how they’ll use face coverings..
They should provide free face coverings so all children and young people are able to wear them.
In line with new World Health Organisation guidelines, they should also provide the hygiene facilities you need to use face coverings effectively – like places to wash your hands and hand sanitiser when you enter or leave a classroom.
Some children and young people might be worried or might not be able to wear a face covering. There are lots of reasons for this, including:
There must be no sanctions or punishments – such as detentions – for children and young people who do not wear a face covering. Schools should make sure that all teachers and students understand that some children will not be wearing face masks.
Schools should also be aware that some children and young people may be distressed by others wearing face masks, and make sure they are supported and reassured.
Access to water is a human right. It’s essential to a child’s right to health, and to fully realising their right to education.
In 2019 the Children’s Future Food Inquiry report identified access to free drinking water in schools as a key issue which disproportionately impacts children experiencing poverty and food insecurity.
Education authorities in Scotland are required to provide drinking water to children in schools. This duty is set out in Regulation 7 of The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020.
This is still the law during the coronavirus pandemic.
No emergency law or policy has changed this.
No guidance has been issued at a national level which would prevent water being provided to children in school for health reasons.
It is important that access to drinking water is provided safely and education authorities should support schools to do this.
If you’re not being allowed access to fresh water at your school – or if you know of a child or young person who’s being denied it – you should contact the head teacher in the first instance and draw their attention to the regulations and to this statement.
If necessary you can ask the head teacher to seek advice from the education authority, who should support them to ensure that drinking water can be provided within the school in a way that protects the rights to health of children and staff.
The Commissioner’s office has written to the Scottish Government asking them to provide clarity to schools on this matter.
The rights in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are interdependent because they depend on each other.