Q:
Where can I find out about mental health services for children and young people?
A:

The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland gives advice about rights in relation to mental health care and treatment.

NHS Choices – Young People and Mental Health offers advice and information about a variety of mental health problems, as well as links to useful resources.

Breathing Space is a helpline staffed by trained advisors. They will listen and provide support and advice (tel. 0800 83 85 87).

Q:
How can I complain about public services?
A:

You can find information about how to complain about public services on the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman’s website

If your complaint is about the NHS, NHS inform has a factsheet for children and young people about how to make complaints about NHS services.

The Patient Advice and Support Service offers information about NHS complaints procedures, independent advice and advocacy support.

Complaints about independent healthcare services (not NHS services) should be made to Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Q:
Where can I find free legal advice and representation for and about children and young people?
A:

Young people between the ages of 11 and 25 can get free, confidential advice on legal issues, 24 hours a day, from the Young Scot Law Line (tel. 0808 801 0801).

The Scottish Child Law Centre provides free legal advice, guidance and information about the law for and about children and young people.

Clan Childlaw provides free legal advice and representation for children and young people.

The Ethnic Minorities Law Centre provides legal advice and representation to individuals from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities in Scotland.

Q:
What is special category data?
A:

Special category data is particularly sensitive personal information. Because it’s more open to misuse than other personal information, there are extra protections around it.

It includes information about someone’s:

  • Race or ethnic origin
  • Political opinions
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs
  • Trade union membership
  • Genetic data
  • Biometric data (when used to identify someone)
  • Health
  • Sex life
  • Sexual orientation
Q:
What is personal information?
A:

Your personal information is any information that can be identified as being about you.

For example, imagine we sent out a form that asked you to tell us your name, which school you went to and your opinion about something.

There probably isn’t anyone else at your school who has the same name as you, so we’d be able to work out that you personally had given us that opinion.

That would make your name and the school you went to personal information, because we could use it to identify you. It also means the opinion you put down on the form is your personal information. 

Some personal information is called special category data, which has extra protections because it’s more sensitive than other personal information.

A:

Special category data is particularly sensitive personal information. Because it’s more open to misuse than other personal information, there are extra protections around it.

It includes information about someone’s:

  • Race or ethnic origin
  • Political opinions
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs
  • Trade union membership
  • Genetic data
  • Biometric data (when used to identify someone)
  • Health
  • Sex life
  • Sexual orientation

Sometimes we will need special category data to help us resolve issues that affect the rights of individual or groups of children and young people in Scotland.

We also ask people to share some of this information with us to help us meet our equalities duties.

Q:
How should governments best respect children’s human rights?
A:

What governments should do to respect human rights are set out in the General Measures of Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). These say that:

  • Governments need to do everything in their power to respect children’s rights. They should makes sure that they provide the most money they can to make that happen.
  • Governments should make sure that children and young people know what their rights are.
  • Governments should help adults understand how to respect these rights.
  • When governments are reporting back the the United Nations about what they have done to respect children’s human rights, they should make sure that these reports are available to everyone, including children and young people.
Q:
How can Children’s Commissioners best protect children’s human rights?
A:

In their General Comment 2, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child explains how people like Children and Young People’s Commissioners can best protect children’s human rights:

  • help children, young people and adults understand children’s human rights.
  • Make sure children and young people know how to contact them.
  • Listen to all children and young people’s views and make sure others do to.
  • Involve children and young people in their day to day work.
  • Work closely with children and young people’s organisations.
  • Be able to investigate where children’s human rights are not being respected.
  • Report back to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on how their country’s government is respecting children’s human rights.

The Committee also says that like other national human rights institutions, Commissioners should be independent of government.

Q:
How can we respect the human rights of very young children?
A:

All children have rights, and that includes babies and very young children. 

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) expresses these rights within the framework of children’s lives and experiences.  The rights in the UNCRC are linked together and support each other – so supporting one right, like the right to participate in play, promotes other rights including the right to be heard, to free expression, to development and to education.

Long before young children can understand the concept of children’s rights, they can develop a sense of their own agency.  Babies and very young children can develop this through relationships with parents and carers, and through their surroundings and environment.  Their experience of these early relationships will influence their sense of self, how they view others and how they respond to their environment.

Babies and very young children need to be supported by the adults that care for them to make their own decisions and to be listened to. They need to feel that their ideas, thoughts and decisions are respected. 

They are finding out about their rights through how others treat them.  They are learning about expressing themselves, their interdependence with others, how valued they are.  They are also learning about sharing, making choices and their place in the world.

Early childhood is a critical period for the realisation of rights and good early years experiences increase the chances of children being able to realise their rights through childhood. 

Q:
What is the Court of Session?
A:

The Court of Session is the highest civil court in Scotland.

What this means

When a judge makes a decision in a civil court it can be appealed in a civil court that has more authority, who can decide the judge’s decision was wrong. But then their decision can also be appealed in a civil court with more authority than that.

The highest civil court is the one with the most authority of all. Once they make a decision, it can only be appealed to the UK Supreme Court, and only in some circumstances.

Q:
What is strategic litigation?
A:

There are times when a case in a court of law can impact more than just the people directly involved in it. The court’s decision may affect other children and young people’s rights by establishing an important point of law or principle. That means that other cases might use this point of law or principle in the future.

When a case like this comes up, the Commissioner may ask the court’s permission to intervene— become involved. When they do this, the Commissioner doesn’t take sides or represent children directly. Instead, they bring issues about children’s rights to the court’s attention to help the judge make a good decision. Doing this is a way of doing strategic litigation.

Q:
What does it mean to enjoy your rights?
A:

When we say children and young people should enjoy their rights, that doesn’t just mean they should take pleasure from them. In this context someone enjoys their rights when they fully possess and benefit from them— so they’re actually put into practice in their lives.

Q:
How does the law protect the Commissioner’s independence?
A:

The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act makes it so the Commissioner is independent of government:

  • the Commissioner is nominated by the whole Scottish Parliament, and appointed by the Queen,
  • the Commissioner can’t be removed from their post without a two-thirds majority vote in the Scottish Parliament.

The Commissioner is accountable to the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland through the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB.) This is a group of MSPs from several political parties who are elected to the Scottish Parliament, not just the parties who are in power.

Q:
What does the law say the Commissioner’s functions are?
A:

Scots law sets out the Commissioner’s functions— the things that he and his office must do.

Protecting and promoting rights

The Commissioner’s main function is to promote and protect the rights of children and young people in Scotland. That includes:

  • everyone in Scotland under 18, and
  • everyone in Scotland under 21 who’s care experienced.

Protecting and promoting rights must involve:

Promoting awareness and understanding

The Commissioner has to tell people in Scotland about the rights children and young people have and help them understand what they mean in practice.

Reviewing law, policy and practice

The Commissioner has to look at what powerful people in Scotland do and the laws they pass, and challenge them when they don’t respect children and young people’s rights.

Promoting best practice

The Commissioner has to tell people who work with and for children and young people how to get better at respecting human rights.

Research

The Commissioner should research issues around children and young people’s human rights and get others to carry out research around this. He should tell people what the research finds.

Investigation

The law gives the Commissioner a special power to investigate some issues affecting children’s human rights. There are limits on when this power of investigation can be used.

Reporting to Parliament

The Commissioner has to report to the Scottish Parliament so they know what he’s doing in his job.

What does the law say the Commissioner has to do when carrying out their functions?

Have regard to the UNCRC

The Commissioner must have regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially around:

Equal opportunities

The Commissioner must encourage equal opportunities and the observance of equal opportunity requirements.

Involving children and young people

The Commissioner must encourage children and young people to be involved in his work. Children and young people should know:

  • what the Commissioner does,
  • how they can talk to the Commissioner, and
  • how the Commissioner will respond to them.

The Commissioner must consult children and young people on the work they plan to do, and must consult organisations who work with children and young people. When they do this, they must pay special attention to groups of children and young people who have no other good way to make their views known.

The Commissioner also has to have a strategy around involving children and young people.

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