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Children's human rights

The United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) applies to all children and young people aged 17 and under. The Convention is separated into 54 'articles': most give children social, economic, cultural or civil and political rights; while others set out how governments must publicise or implement the Convention.

What is the UNCRC?

All children and young people up to the age of 18 years have all the rights in the Convention. Some groups of children and young people - for example those living away from home, and young disabled people - have additional rights to make sure they are treated fairly and their needs are met.

The UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 16 December 1991. That means the UK government now has to make sure that every child has all the rights outlined in the treaty except in those areas where the government has entered a specific reservation.

A convention is an agreement between countries to obey the same law. When the government of a country ratifies a convention, that means it agrees to obey the rules set out in that convention.

What the treaty means

From 15 January 1992, when the treaty came into force, every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights. These include:

  • the right to life, survival and development
  • the right to have their views respected, and to have their best interests considered at all times
  • the right to a name and nationality, freedom of expression, and access to information concerning them
  • the right to live in a family environment or alternative care, and to have contact with both parents wherever possible
  • health and welfare rights, including rights for disabled children, the right to health and health care, and social security
  • the right to education, leisure, culture and the arts
  • special protection for refugee children, children in the juvenile justice system, children deprived of their liberty and children suffering economic, sexual or other forms of exploitation

The rights included in the convention apply to all children and young people, with no exceptions.

For more detailed information on the treaty and the rights included in it, and to find out the reservations entered by each country, click on the link below.

Making sure the Convention is followed

Responsibility for making sure each country follows the agreements of the Convention rests with The Committee for the Rights of the Child. This is an international body made up of experts on children's rights. The Committee last reviewed the UK Government's record in 2002.

England now also has a Children's Commissioner, responsible for promoting awareness of children's views, interests and other rights guaranteed by the Convention. The Commissioner must prepare a report for Parliament each year.

Comments on delivery

The members of the United Nations have asked the government to let them know how the rights of young people are being taken into consideration in the UK.

To do this, the government asked both adults and children to send their views on the rights mentioned in the Convention, and asked whether there was more that could be done to promote them.

The survey covered a lot of areas including education, health and leisure facilities, and closed on 31 January 2007. Responses are now being analysed and the findings of the survey will be published later in the year.

Children's Rights Alliance for England

In addition to the Committee and the Children's Commissioner, The Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) is a non-government organisation which produces an annual review of how well the government responds to the Committee's findings and recommendations. The report summarises both positive and negative developments in children's human rights in England.

To order CRAE's latest annual report, follow the link below.

Useful contacts

  • Source Direct Gov
  • Last Updated: 06 Jan 2012