Today our office publishes our 2019/20 Annual Report.
It covers the time from April 2019 until the end of March 2020, so ends around when lockdown was beginning.
Over the last seven months our work has been focused on the impact of the pandemic on the human rights of children and young people. It can be hard to remember a time before COVID-19, and that’s especially true the younger you are. A 6-year-old recently told the Commissioner that she couldn’t really remember what life was like before the pandemic began.
But it’s important we reflect on what a huge year 2019/20 was for children’s rights in Scotland. Our report covers progress on issues including:
- Incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We made significant progress on the incorporation of the UNCRC into domestic law, with a commitment to a bill which fully and directly incorporates the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible by the end of the Parliamentary session.
- Protection of children from physical punishment. The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Scotland Act provides children with full protection from physical punishment, bringing us into line with the majority of Europe and a growing number of countries globally.
- Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Although Scottish legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 falls well below the international minimum standard, it did at least start a process of much-needed reform.
Using our powers
- advocate for those deprived of their liberty, and
- inspect the Polmont Young Offenders Institution.
Involving children and young people
2019/20 was the final part of our two-year revised Strategic Plan, and led by our young advisers we created a new four-year strategic plan which builds on the foundations of the last two years and continues to put the voice of children and young people at the heart of our work.
The issues children wanted us to focus on remained mostly similar, with a focus on poverty, mental health, and climate justice.
Beyond this, our young advisers group was actively involved in all aspects of our work, leading our annual Gathering of young people in Edinburgh.
Children and young people also led our international engagement with human rights bodies, with two of our young human rights defenders becoming the youngest people ever to give evidence to the UN Committee Against Torture.
And four 10-year-old children from Avenue End Primary in Glasgow attended the UN Human Rights Council to work with the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty.
We also produce a report each year for children and young people.