Incorporation of the UNCRC, One Year On

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It’s now one year ago, on the 16th March 2021, that the Scottish Parliament committed to a ‘revolution in children’s rights’ by unanimously passing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

Our Policy and Participation Assistant, Gemma Ferrie, has put together this blog of updates, to let you know what has happened since and how Who Cares? Scotland has been taking action.

Back in March 2021…

We updated you that a new UNCRC Bill had been voted on within Scottish Parliament. This Bill would ensure that Scotland holds up and respects the rights of children in Scotland, by protecting those rights within Scottish law. This process is called ‘incorporation’ (when a country decides to make international human rights part of its own law.)

The new UNCRC Incorporation Bill includes new protections on the rights for children to have a say in their life, education, healthcare and many more rights as listed in the UNCRC.

What’s happened since then?

The Scottish Parliament passed the Bill unanimously on the 16th March 2021!

However, in June 2021, the UK Government challenged the new law. This was done as there were concerns that four commitments of the Bill are areas that Scotland doesn’t have the powers to put in place as a devolved nation. The Bill was then taken to the UK Supreme Court for judges to decide if that was the case or not.

The Supreme Court could decide that these areas of the Bill are outside of Scotland’s powers and send it back to be amended, or they could say it was completely within Scotland’s powers and give the green light to go ahead with incorporation.

The UK Supreme Court decision

The latest update occurred on the 6th of October 2021; the Supreme Court announced they found four parts of the Bill that go beyond the Scottish Parliament’s powers. This is down to a technical issue in constitutional law, rather than an issue with the Bill’s intention to protect children’s rights.

This means the Bill will now go back to the Scottish Parliament to be amended, so that it stays within the Scottish Parliament’s powers. The technical issue is that areas of the Bill fall outside Scotland’s Constitutional law, only the UK Government can pass new laws on certain areas. This makes the Bill outside of Scotland’s powers to approve.

The UK government have added that ‘Protecting vulnerable children and protecting children’s rights is a priority’, which they share with Scotland.

Who Cares? Scotland proudly supports the UNCRC Incorporation Bill. We are one of 65 organisations that signed a joint letter addressed to the Deputy First Minister of Scotland and the Minister for Children and Young People. The letter asked that the Scottish Government quickly addresses and fixes the areas raised by the Supreme Court.

What are Who Cares? Scotland doing to prepare for incorporation?

Who Cares? Scotland have been doing two key things to prepare for UNCRC incorporation:

  1. Members have been taking part in the Rights Right Now project,
  2. Our Training and Education Team have developed Brand new Corporate Parent training

The Rights Right Now project is a group of children and young people who are working together with third sector organisations including: Children in Scotland, Carers Trust, Who Cares? Scotland, Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities, Scottish Youth Parliament and Aberlour. This ensures professionals know how the new UNCRC Incorporation Bill affects their work and supports the rights of children in Scotland.

Rights Right now will meet until March 2022, then there will be a move for a longer-term group of children and young people to guide and support UNCRC Incorporation.

The young people in Rights Right Now also guide and support the Strategic Implementation Board (SIB). The Strategic implementation Board is a group of Government, private and non-governmental organisation (NGO) stakeholders providing collective leadership on the Bill.

The Training and Education team are creating a collaborative and explorative space for Corporate Parents to reflect on their understanding of children’s rights as set out by UNCRC, and how this may intersect with Corporate Parenting duties. A pilot session is being held in March 2022 and learning from this training will also help shape future sessions, supporting Corporate Parents to be fully equipped with knowledge of upholding children’s rights in interest of Care Experienced people.

A quote from our CEO

‘Binding duty-bearers, including Corporate Parents, to make children’s rights real is fundamental to keeping The Promise of ensuring every child with care experience in Scotland grows up safe, loved, respected and able to realise their full potential.

I am so proud of our members Emma, David and Thomas who have been working hard since September as part of the Rights Right Now group to ensure that children and young people, including the voices of care experience, are at the heart of discussions around UNCRC implementation.

We are frustrated at the delays in progressing the UNCRC Incorporation Bill. Justice delayed is justice denied, and we see a delay in realising children’s rights in Scotland as a denial of their rights. Alongside this legislation, we want to see sustainably funded independent advocacy services for care experienced children across Scotland in order to fix the postcode lottery and ensure prevention of rights abuses, early intervention and access to justice.

We will continue to support UNCRC implementation without delay through our independent advocacy provision and work with Together and Corporate Parents, including elected representatives.’

Louise Hunter (Chief Exec)

Moving forward into the future

There is a delay in the UNCRC Bill being incorporated into Scottish law while Scottish Parliament rework areas of the Bill, however this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the journey.

The journey to having UNCRC Children’s Rights be part of Scottish law will continue, and many organisations just like us, are preparing and adapting to accept the UNCRC Children’s Rights in Scottish law and will continue moving forward.

All information on the Bill and details can be found on:

Together Scotland

Together Scotland UNCRC blog 1

Together Scotland UNCRC blog 2

With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities, funding partners and donors who make our work possible.