The Rights of the Child and Young Person (Wales) Measure 2011 was seen by some as ground-breaking when it came into force. Ten years later, can we say this law has made a difference to the lives of children and young people?
In 2020 a Senedd Committee was clear that there “must be a renewed emphasis on getting the implementation of this Measure right”.
The Measure requires the Welsh Government to publish a plan saying how it’s going to deliver this law. On 7 December, Members of this Sixth Senedd will have their say when they decide whether to approve the Welsh Government’s renewed plan to get things right.
What rights do children have in Wales?
The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) sets out a wide range of rights for children and young people up to 18 years old. These include rights to protection, health, family, education, culture and leisure.
In 2011 the Welsh Government received international recognition for introducing the Rights of the Child and Young Person (Wales) Measure – a law which means that Welsh Ministers need to give ‘due regard’ to the UNCRC in everything they do.
The Welsh Government’s plan to put this into practice is called the Children’s Rights Scheme. It aims to set out the practical arrangements needed to support implementing the Measure.
The existing 2014 Children’s Rights Scheme has been revised. Welsh Government consulted on a new draft scheme between December 2020 and March 2021. If approved, this renewed plan will be the third scheme since the Measure came into force.
What was the verdict in the Fifth Senedd?
The Fifth Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee’s published its report on children’s rights in August 2020, alongside a child-friendly version. It made 16 recommendations and concluded there was still “progress to be made” saying:
We heard clear frustrations from stakeholders about the pace at which the Measure has influenced policy and spending. There is a lack of reference to children’s rights in key strategic documents, and insufficient evidence that the duties in the Measure are being considered and exercised across the whole of the Welsh Government. Some of the tools put in place to support the implementation of this legislation, such as Child Rights Impact Assessments, are produced far too late in the policy development process. This demonstrates to us that children’s rights are not driving the Welsh Government’s decision-making as the legislation intended.
The Welsh Government accepted 16 of the Committee’s recommendations fully, accepted one in principle and rejected four.
Talking specifically about the Children’s Rights Scheme, the Committee said:
We are acutely aware of the importance of the practical tools to support the implementation of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure to ensure that the Welsh Ministers comply with their duty to have “due regard” to the UNCRC.
It made the following four recommendations on changes to the scheme. All were accepted, albeit one only in principle.
Recommendation 3. That the Welsh Government insert provision in its revised Children’s Rights Scheme for all Welsh Ministers to undertake initial and follow up training on the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011’s “due regard” duty
The Welsh Government accepted this in principle saying that all Welsh Ministers would be offered training rather than having to do it. Section 3.4 of the renewed plan, seeks to address this.
The Welsh Government accepted the following three recommendations in full. Sections 7.2, 7.1 and 6 of the renewed plan respectively seek to address these issues.
Recommendation 4. That the Welsh Government include within the complaints mechanism in its revised Children’s Rights Scheme the right to challenge a decision not to undertake a Child Rights Impact Assessment on any area of policy development.
Recommendation 10. That the Welsh Government include a strengthened and child friendly complaints mechanism in its revised Children’s Rights Scheme to empower children and young people to seek redress when necessary and to uphold their rights.
Recommendation 12. That the Welsh Government set out in its revised Children’s Rights Scheme a clear strategy to ensure the participation of children and young people in discussions on Welsh Government decisions which affect them.
The Welsh Government also published this Children's Rights Complaints Leaflet in November 2021.
What will the Sixth Senedd’s verdict be?
Senedd Members will have their own views on whether the new Children’s Rights Scheme is likely to deliver on the recommendations above. Members will also no doubt have other questions to ask about whether it will make a difference in fully delivering the Measure.
You can watch whether Senedd Members approve the Children’s Right’s Scheme, and what they have to say, on Senedd TV on Tuesday 7 December.
Article by Sian Thomas, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament