SUII seminar #3: A Local Authority Perspective on embedding child rights: Aberdeen City Council

Gayle GormanThis blog was written by Gayle Gorman, Director of Education and Children’s Services at Aberdeen City Council. Under Gayle’s leadership, Aberdeen City Council received UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools Award and is committed to ensuring that the opinions and voices of children and young people are part of decision-making processes locally and regionally. Gayle presented at the ‘UNCRC in Scotland‘ series seminar three on Monday 24th April. Throughout the series, seminar speakers have been writing blogs outlining their presentation topics. The seminar series consists of 4 seminars held in partnership between Together, the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection at the University of Stirling. The seminar series (funded by SUII) seeks to improve and address gaps in the implementation and monitoring of the UNCRC in Scotland.

Our ambition is for Scotland to become the best place in the world for a child to grow up. Recognising, respecting and promoting rights is essential if we are to make that vision a reality. Every child has the right to survival, protection and education, and to have their voice heard. These and many other fundamental children’s rights are outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

This is rightly to be commended, and new duties for Local Authorities, Councils and policy makers to report on UNCRC implementation is clear. However, implementation is varied, and knowledge and understanding is not yet consistent across Scotland.

New duties strengthen children’s rights and wellbeing

Measures came into force on 1 April 2017 to ensure that public authorities take account of children’s rights and wellbeing in fulfilling their functions.

Duties under Part 1 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (2014 Act), implemented from 1 April, require specified public authorities, including all local authorities and health boards, to report every 3 years on the steps they have taken to secure better or further effect of the UNCRC.  The first reports under these new duties are due in 2020.

Children’s Services Plans

Part 3 of the Act places a duty on each local authority and the relevant health board, to jointly prepare a children’s services plan for the area of the local authority covering a 3-year period.  A range of other relevant local and national bodies are expected to be either consulted with, or obliged to participate at various stages of the development of the plan.  It also requires the local authority and relevant health board to jointly publish an annual report detailing how the provision of children’s services and related services in that area have been provided in accordance with the plan.

The commencement of the arrangements for Part 3 (Children’s Services Planning) also came into effect on 1 April. The first children’s services plans, which were required to be in place on that date, cover the three year period from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2020.

Thereafter, a children’s services plan is required for each subsequent 3 year period.  The aim of children’s services plans is to improve outcomes for all children and young people in Scotland by ensuring that local planning and delivery of services is integrated, focused on securing quality and value through preventative approaches and dedicated to safeguarding, supporting and promoting child wellbeing.

Implementing the Getting It Right For Every Child approach gives us an opportunity to make the UNCRC a reality in Scotland and the Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) model is available for public authorities to adapt for their own use if they wish. From 15 June 2015, Scottish Government officials started to use CRWIA in order to help Minsters meet their duties under Part 1 of the Children and Young People Scotland Act 2014, and in relation to the Articles of the UNCRC.

Policy delivery

It is essential that the UNCRC is made real and that implementation is embedded into practice, through the lens of local authorities. Councils and other policy bodies must be  committed to the rights of the child and develop  inclusive children and young people’s strategies, to ensure the UNCRC is delivered across the country and that views of children are central to decision making, policy development and planning.

There needs to be widespread consultation, engagement and involvement of children and young people in evaluating and writing the integrated Children Services Plans. Evaluating progress and challenging the status quo must involve children and young people and ensure the principles of the UNCRC and related articles are delivered.

Local work in Aberdeen City has included creating a team of ‘Imagineers’ who have created their vision for Aberdeen of the future and a list of requests of civic leaders and decision makers to improve their lives. Local Authorities need to develop a variety of approaches to engagement and delivery of UNCRC across all areas.

Practical approaches such as the Rights Respecting Schools programme, engaging with Children’s Parliament, and establishing children’s voices groups and staff development programmes will inform adult decision makers about UNCRC and the role they have to play in supporting and upholding children’s rights.

My session explored the delivery of a range of projects to promote and enable delivery of the policy at a local level – these can be found through the presentation slides here.

Find out more about ‘the UNCRC in Scotland’ seminar series and access resources here.

Disclaimer: Together is a membership organisation with over 360 members. The blog articles on this site do not necessarily reflect the specific views of each member organisation.

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