The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989. The United Kingdom approved the UNCRC in 1991. Apart from the United States of America, all member countries of the United Nations have signed and ratified the UNCRC.
The UNCRC describes what every child needs to survive, grow and thrive in order to live with dignity and achieve their potential. There are 54 articles of the UNCRC, the first 42 of which describe what every child and young person from birth to 18 years old should experience.
The Convention is based on four general principles:
- Equality: the UNCRC applies to all children (Article 2)
- The best interests of the child must be a top priority (Article 3)
- Every child has the right to life, survival and opportunities to develop to their full potential (Article 6)
- Every child has a right to be heard and listened to in matters that affect them (Article 12).
Since the UNCRC was adopted in 1989, there have been three further protocols that have been adopted. These are ‘Optional Protocols’ which have been opened to countries for signature. They are:
- The involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
- The sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
- A communications procedure to allow children to file complaints for the violation of their rights.
Children and young people across Scotland will be learning about the UNCRC and their rights through programmes such as the Rights Respecting School Award (RRSA).
Below are some links that will help parents learn about children’s rights so that they can help their children.
- UNICEF provides summary text of the UNCRC more suitable for children and full text of the UNCRC for adults
- Children and Young People’s Commissioner of Scotland on Children’s Rights
- UNICEF’s Rights Respecting School Award.
If your child is aged 12 - 15 they have many of the same rights as you under Additional Support for Learning law. They have the right to be listened to and properly involved in decisions about their education and support. They also have the right to dispute these decisions if they disagree with them. Children aged 12 -15 also have the right to:
- ask the local authority to find out if they have additional support needs
- ask the local authority to find out if they need a co-ordinated support plan (CSP) or review an existing CSP
- have their views noted in their CSP
- ask the local authority for a specific type of assessment to find out if they have additional support needs and what support they need
- ask the local authority for a specific type of assessment if the local authority are thinking about preparing a CSP or reviewing an existing CSP
- information and advice about their additional support needs
- any decisions regarding their use of their rights
- a copy of their CSP
- ask for independent adjudication
- appeal to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal about CSPs or the failure of their school to plan for the time after they leave school
- be asked for their views during any independent mediation that takes place
- to have a supporter or advocate with them to get their views across at any relevant meetings about their additional support needs
- to use the My Rights, My Say children's support service to help them make use of their rights.
- be asked if they are happy for their information to be shared with relevant agencies when they leave school.
In many cases professionals will already understand your child's needs and will be working with them and you to agree the support needed. Your child may not need to go through a formal process of asking to use their rights but this option is available. If they do decided to ask formally to use their rights, the school or local authority must first check whether your child has the capacity to do so. They must also decide whether your child's use of their rights would have a negative effect on their wellbeing.
Find out more about children's rights on Enquire's website.
If your child needs support to use their rights or share their views you can contact My Rights, My Say.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are children’s rights?
Children’s rights are entitlements to fundamental human dignity. They are:
- Universal – and they apply to EVERY child
- Interrelated, interdependent and indivisible – all the articles of the UNCRC are linked and should be read alongside each other to provide the full range of a child’s entitlement to dignity
- Inalienable and inviolable – children's rights cannot be given or taken away: they are innate to the humanity and personhood of each child.
Why are children being taught about children’s rights?
All children, young people and adults need to know about the UNCRC (Article 42). As a member of the United Kingdom which has signed and approved the UNCRC, this applies to Scotland and therefore children and young people have the right to know that they have rights!
What is the impact on children’s learning?
Learning about children’s rights can empower children and young people to be active citizens in their school, local community and across the world. Knowing and understanding children’s rights is not enough; children and young people also need to be supported to develop skills of talking, listening, empathy, research, debate and negotiation so that they can claim their entitlement to dignity, or share their learning in a rights-based manner with others. All children have the same rights and may need support to develop the skills that will allow them to respect everyone's rights.
How can parents support children’s rights?
Parents are the first educators of their children. Children can learn about and experience their rights at home. Parents can support their children by ensuring they know and understand what children’s rights are and by discussing with their child how these rights apply to them and the lives of other children around the world.