An assessment of how well the Government is protecting children’s rights in England, published today, claims a catalogue of violations. The report, published by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), draws on hundreds of sources to examine how children are faring in all aspects of their lives and says that there are breaches in many key areas. It also reports that the Government is not fulfilling its promise to check how its policies affect children’s rights.

In 2008 the UN advised the UK to improve on children’s rights in 118 areas. In 12 months from now, the Government is due to update the UN on progress made. CRAE has found that in relation to 31% of recommendations things are getting worse for children. For example:

  • Forty-three children died as a result of ‘deliberately inflicted injury, abuse or neglect’ in 2011-2012. Sixty-five per cent of these deaths were ‘modifiable’;
  • More than 3,000 foster children are estimated to have gone missing in the year up to March 2012. As of 31 March 2012 1% were still reported missing;
  • Of 6,610 care leavers aged 19, 36% were not in education, employment or training;
  • In 2011 only 13.9% of children in care achieved good GCSE grades (A* to C) in both English and mathematics, compared to 58.6% of their peers. Just 25% of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils achieved national expectations in English and mathematics at the end of their primary education, compared with 74% of all pupils;
  • On average, a child in custody was subject to a restraint resulting in an injury requiring hospital treatment once each month during 2010-11;
  • In October 2012, 37% of all children in custody were BME. While the number of children in custody has fallen by a huge 21% since October 2011, the number of BME children in custody has increased by 3%.

In 2010, the Government made ‘a clear commitment that the Government will give due consideration to the UNCRC Articles when making new policy and legislation’. In November 2012 CRAE asked 17 Government departments what each department does to assess the impact of its policies on children’s rights and requesting evidence of this analysis.

Three stated that they did not hold the information requested, suggesting they do nothing to assess the compatibility of their policies with the CRC. Others gave an inadequate response: The Treasury confirmed it had ‘not specifically commissioned any analysis to consider the compatibility of its policies and spending decisions with the [CRC]’; The Youth Justice Board told CRAE that there had been no formal children’s rights impact assessment of its new system of restraint, which allows guards to intentionally inflict pain on children in custody, though the CRC articles had been taken into account in its development.

Only the Department for Education gave evidence of any detailed analysis of its policies. It had assessed four legislative proposals: reform of the Children’s Commissioner, changes to the family justice system, changes to the law around parenting after separation, and proposals to change the system of contact and residence orders. However, the analysis indicates that the Government has tended to focus on evidence which supports its policy positions.

Paola Uccellari, Director of CRAE, says:

“There is a massive question mark over the Government’s commitment to children’s rights. Children are facing destitution, going missing from care and it’s still ok to deliberately hurt children in England. The UN criticised the UK’s record on children’s rights four years ago – but we keep moving backwards on many of these issues. The Government’s lack of progress is not surprising when we find out that it is flouting its own promise to check whether its policies breach children’s rights. When the Government reports to the UN this time next year, it will find it difficult to say with any credibility that it is committed to children’s rights.”