Across the UK the rights and equalities standards children and young people enjoy are under threat.
In August 2022 we sent evidence to the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) as part of their call for submissions to inform the alternative report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
We submitted two pieces of evidence, one on the importance of the commencement of the Socio-economic Duty in order to achieve better equality for children and young people in the UK, and one on the ways in which how we have departed the European Union risks undermining rights and equalities for children and young people in the UK.
The Socio-economic Duty
In our submission we highlighted that inequality in the UK for children and young people predates but has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, including in relation to education, housing, food, social security and work.
We argued that through the Equality Act 2010 we have a key mechanism at our disposal to help tackle inequality – the Socio-economic Duty. While the Duty has been brought into force by devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, it has not been commenced in England. If commenced the duty would mean that public bodies, when making strategic decisions would have to consider how to reduce inequalities resulting from socio-economic disadvantage.
This simple but powerful tool could help make real change in the lives of children and young people by ensuring that when decisions are made, those in greatest socio-economic need are prioritised and when making laws the UK Government considers particular risks to those in socio-economic need.
The UK’s exit from the EU
On 31 January 2020 the United Kingdom exited the European Union (EU). In our submission we highlighted that the ways in which the UK Government has chosen to do this is already having an impact on the rights and equalities standards that children and young people across the UK enjoy.
The clearest example of this is that the UK Government decided not to include the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the body of EU law which it decided to ‘carry over’ into UK law, so these important protections have been lost.1
In addition, we are deeply concerned that the UK Government is proposing to allow ministers to unpick other EU laws that have been ‘carried over’ into domestic legislation, without proper democratic oversight by the UK Parliament. As we highlighted in our evidence, the laws of the EU have done much to realise the rights of children and young people, for issues as varied as the contents of baby food,2 the protection of young people at work,3 and the enforcement of cross-border child maintenance decisions.4
We also argued that instead of diminishing rights, the UK Government has an opportunity to build upon our current rights frameworks for children and young people across the UK as we chart our future as a nation. However, we believe that the current UK Government is not grasping this opportunity.