Your human rights


Human rights can be confusing. If your rights aren’t respected it isn’t always clear what you can do, and it can be hard to find an explanation of how rights all work in the first place.

This is where you can find information about rights that you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand, so you’re better able to use them in your life.

Your rights in your life

We’ve put together answers to some of the questions children and young people have asked us about their human rights, and you can find the answers here:

Rights in your life

A:

When parents don’t live together and can’t agree on:

  • where their children should stay, or
  • how much time they should spend with each parent,

they will go to the Family Court for a Child Welfare Hearing so someone can make a decision on what should happen. 

The person who makes this decision is known as a Sheriff. They will hear each parent’s view and ask questions if they need more information. But Sheriffs know that your views are equally important as the child or young person involved. Because of this, they may ask a Child Welfare Reporter to spend time with you to find out how they feel about what is happening.

Sometimes, the Sheriff will speak directly with you. This all helps Sheriffs take a child or young person’s views into account when they are making their decision.

Your rights

Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the European Convention on Human Rights and laws in Scotland all make it clear that children and young people have the right to have contact with both parents, but only if it is safe and in their best interests for this to happen.

The UNCRC also says that children and young people have the right to have their views heard and taken into account when decisions are made about them. Article 12 specifically mentions the importance of this in decisions taken by courts.

There are ways you can help make sure the Sheriff hears your views. You can fill in an F9 form from the Court – your solicitor can give you a copy – or get a ‘Helping Hands’ form from the Scottish Child Law Centre—these are especially good for younger children. You can also write directly to the Sheriff. Even young children and those who have different ways of communicating can and should be helped by adults to do this.

What you can do

There are ways you can help make sure the Sheriff hears your views. You can fill in an F9 form from the Court – your solicitor can give you a copy – or get a ‘Helping Hands’ form from the Scottish Child Law Centre—these are especially good for younger children. You can also write directly to the Sheriff. Even young children and those who have different ways of communicating can and should be helped by adults to do this.

Children and young people can also have their own lawyers. Normally lawyers will act for children if they are 12 or older, but they will also represent younger children as long as they are able to understand what is happening.

If you would like more information you can contact either the Scottish Child Law Centre or ClanChildlaw who can give you advice and information.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

A:

Just like adults, children and young people have the right to have their information protected and their privacy respected. They also have the right to access information that organisations hold about them and to have it corrected when it isn’t accurate.

Your rights

Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is about the child’s right to privacy. It says that every child should:

  • know that information is held about them,
  • know why information about them is being held,
  • know who controls any information about them,
  • know who has access to the records of information about them, and
  • be able to have inaccurate information about them deleted or corrected.

In the UK your information rights are also safeguarded by the Data Protection Act 2018. This Act says that you have the right to find out what information the government and other organisations store about you. These include the right to:

  • be informed about how your data is being used,
  • access personal data,
  • have incorrect data updated,
  • have data erased,
  • stop or restrict the processing of your data,
  • object to how your data is processed in certain circumstances, and
  • data portability (allowing you to get and reuse your data for different services).

In the UK your information rights are also safeguarded by the Data Protection Act 2018. The Act says that you have the right to find out what information the government and other organisations store about you. These include the right to:

You also have rights when an organisation is using your personal data for:

  • automated decision-making processes, which happen without human involvement, or
  • profiling, so they can do something like predicting your behaviour or interests.

What you can do

If you think your school may have shared information about you when they shouldn’t have, you can ask the school to tell you what information they have shared, who they shared it with and why they shared it.

You could then ask the Information Commissioner’s Office in Scotland whether your personal information may have been shared incorrectly. If it has been, you can make a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner’s advice line number is 0303 123 1113.

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.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

A:

Families are important, especially relationships with your brothers and sisters— your siblings. We know these relationships are important for mental health and a sense of identity, so you should be able to contact your brother or sister unless for some reason it’s not in your best interests.

Your rights

Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which is about the child’s right to a family life, also talks about the importance of a child’s right to an identity. It recognises the importance of siblings, grandparents and other relatives to a child’s sense of identity.

The  United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (II B (17) also says that every effort should be made to enable siblings to maintain contact with each other, unless this is against their wishes or interests. 

And the European Court of Human Rights of Human Rights has confirmed family life can exist between siblings—reinforcing your European Convention on Human Rights right to family life.

What you can do

If you’ve been separated from your siblings because you are in care, you can tell your Children’s Hearing that you want to have contact with your sister.

Contact is something a Children’s Hearing must consider when they are making decisions, including trying to keep siblings together or at least have contact with each other.

You might find it helpful if you’re speaking to social workers or Children’s Panel members to have an advocacy worker to support you in getting your views across. You can find information about advocacy for looked after children on the Who Cares? Scotland website.

A group called Stand up for Siblings is supporting calls for a change in the law to protect relationships between brothers and sisters in the new Children (Scotland) Bill. You can find information specifically for children and young people on their website.

Local authorities should also consider your need for contact with your family – including siblings – as part of assessment and care planning. If they don’t do this, you can make a formal complaint about social work. You can find out how to do this on your council website by searching under the word ‘complaints’.

If you are not happy with the response to your complaint, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to review it.

Using the law

Although the UNCRC recognises the right to family life as including sibling relationships, Scots law does not make it easy for siblings to obtain orders enabling contact.

If you would like to have legal advice, the Scottish Child Law Centre and Clan Childlaw can give you this for free.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

A:

All planning applications have to be approved by the local council. If the proposal is likely to have a significant impact on the environment the developer will be asked to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA). Waste disposal sites may be asked to do this depending on where they are and how big they are.  

An EIA will be required if the development is going to produce toxic waste.

Your rights

Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) warns of the risks of environmental pollution, and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has highlighted the damaging effects of environmental pollution and its impact on children’s rights, mentioning contamination of water supplies, sea pollution and air pollution.

Pollution is also mentioned as an obstacle to the child’s right to play in a safe environment in Article 31 of the UNCRC.

Article 12 – which is about children voices being heard in decisions that affect them – means that children and young people have the right to participate in decision-making processes. This includes planning consultations.

Local authorities should always make sure they are taking children and young people’s best interests into account when they make decisions that will affect them.

What you can do

Members of the public of all ages can write to the council to object to planning proposals. Concerns raised about the negative impact on the environment will be discussed by the Council’s planning committee at a meeting— and you can attend this and speak at it.

You can also write to your Councillor, your MP and your MSP. You could start a campaign or petition.

If planning permission has already been granted, sometimes a local authority can consider making a Revocation Order— effectively meaning that planning permission is taken away. But this has to be confirmed by Ministers in the Scottish Parliament, so orders like this aren’t issued very often.

You will find information about the plans and process for objections on your local council’s website. Planning Aid for Scotland also offers free advice and Citizens Advice can help, too.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

A:

Our office has been told many times about issues with school toilets— that they’re dirty, have no soap, hot water or handtowels, have no doors on cubicles and aren’t accessible outside of break times.

In 2013, we launched a campaign to improve school toilets and conducted research with children and young people.  As part of this, we called on the Scottish Government to publish new standards for toilets in schools in Scotland.  The Government consulted on the 1967 school premises regulations, but has not yet updated them.

Your rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children and young people have the right to health and the right to privacy.

Because of this, school toilets should be safe, accessible and fit for purpose.

What you can do

You should discuss the problems about the toilets with your head teacher. If this doesn’t improve things, you could ask your parent council to get involved.

If this doesn’t help, you can make a formal complaint to your local education authority—you can find information about how to do this on your council’s website by searching under the word ‘complaints’.

If you are not happy with the local education authority’s response to your complaint, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to look at how your complaint was handled.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

A:

Using handcuffs on a child – or any other kind of physical force – should only happen when absolutely necessary, like to stop that child harming themselves or someone else.

It should also only happen as a last resort and for the shortest possible time.

Your rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) says that no child should be deprived of their liberty in a way that is against the law except under very specific circumstances. It says you must be treated with humanity and respect for your dignity in a way that takes into account your age and ability.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says in their General Comment 24 that a child can only be restrained when there is an immediate threat of injury to themselves or others and only when everything else has been tried.

A:

Someone is deprived of their liberty when they are kept somewhere and not allowed to leave, under constant supervision and control.

A:

Restraint means holding a child or young person to stop them from moving.

Seclusion means shutting a child somewhere alone and not allowing them to leave.

What you can do

If you believe you have been illegally restrained you can make a complaint about your treatment to Police Scotland. If you’re not happy with the decision they make, you can ask the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner to look at your complaint again.

A:

If you have a complaint about the police you can contact Police Scotland online, by post, by telephone, or in person at a police station. Information about how to make a complaint can be found here.

If your complaint is about a senior police officer you can make a complaint to the Scottish Police Authority.

If you are not happy with the response to a complaint, you can ask the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) to review the way your complaint was handled.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

A:

Although schools have rules about what you can and can’t wear to school, there isn’t any specific legislation about school uniform.  The uniform policy is set by either the individual school or the local education authority.

Rules about school uniform can be about more than just clothing, they can apply to anything that affects your appearance—like the wearing of jewellery or badges; in fact, anything that might affect the school’s image.

Your rights

Decisions by schools and education authorities should respect your rights to freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination.

However, there have been court decisions in English and Wales that found it may not be a breach of human rights to restrict the wearing of particular clothing or jewellery. That’s true even where it may be connected to a pupil’s religious beliefs.

As well as this, the European Court of Human Rights has decided that having to wear school uniform is not a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, school uniform rules shouldn’t have a disproportionate effect on any one gender, race or religion. An example of this is a recent court ruling which found that a ban on jewellery – which made it against the rules for a pupil to wear a Sikh bangle – was unlawful discrimination on the grounds of both race and religion.

A:

Direct discrimination happens when a person is treated differently because of the way they are.

For example, it happens if someone doesn’t get a job because of their disability or isn’t treated equally because of their race.

Indirect discrimination happens when something applies to everyone in the same way but affects some people unfairly.

For example, if everyone had to climb up a flight of stairs to get to an after school club, this would discriminate against children who couldn’t do that because of disability.

A:

If you believe you may have been discriminated against the  Equality Advisory Support Service provides advice and assistance on equality and human rights legislation and how it may relate to you.

A:

If you believe you may have been discriminated against the  Equality Advisory Support Service provides advice and assistance on equality and human rights legislation and how it may relate to you.

A:

The LGBT Youth Scotland website has advice, information and resources for young people, parents and carers and professionals. There’s a chat line, too (tel. 0131 555 3940).

What you can do

If you believe that your school’s uniform policy discriminates against you, having a discussion with the school is the first step.  You might ask them to do a Child Rights Impact Assessment of their policy.

If this doesn’t help, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service who give advice on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They can let you know if it is possible that school rules may discriminate against you and what you can do about it if they do.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

A:

Sometimes the Commissioner hears about supermarkets or other shops stopping or restricting the entry of children and young people – particularly school pupils – at certain times of day.

Shops should not assume that children and young people will cause trouble, but they are not acting illegally imposing restrictions on them. Although the Equality Act 2010 protects individuals in the UK against discrimination by traders and service providers – this includes shops and supermarket chains – the part of the Equality Act that’s about age discrimination doesn’t apply if you are under 18.

Different conditions and restrictions can apply to children or different ages. This means that businesses can refuse to serve or admit children. An example of this is hotels that don’t allow children or shops that limit the number of children entering a shop or ban them altogether.

Your rights

What you can do

A:

If you believe you may have been discriminated against the  Equality Advisory Support Service provides advice and assistance on equality and human rights legislation and how it may relate to you.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

How human rights work

Our Rights FAQ explains words and concepts that come up a lot in human rights and which may be unfamiliar to you, and has information about how the Commissioner’s office works to protect your rights.

Support, advice and information

We’ve developed this set of links to other organisations in response to questions we’re often asked on our advice line.

Support, advice and information links

Get in touch

If you have a question about your human rights that you can’t find an answer to, let us know and we’ll try and answer it on this website.

  • Your Name
top