Exposing violence against children in the UK. UNCRC Review Countdown Series – 5 days to go

As we approach the UK’s review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on 18-19th May, Together is publishing a series of daily blogs to examine issues we want to see raised. Today we’re looking at actions to prevent and address violence against children.

In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a series of recommendations on steps UK and devolved governments should take to prevent and address violence against children. These recommendations included prohibiting the use of tasers and other harmful devices; strengthening safeguards on the use of restraint; prohibiting physical punishment of children by parents and carers; and strengthening protection from and responses to all forms of abuse and neglect.

What issues do we want to see raised at the UK’s review?

Together’s 2023 State of Children’s Rights Report offered an update on progress towards these recommendations. It reflected on key successes, such as the much-celebrated legislation passed in 2019 to end physical punishment by parents/carers. However, it also highlighted various ways in which the UK and Scotland still fall short of the recommendations.

We know that tasers continue to be drawn and fired at children and that issues remain around data recording and transparency. We also know that unlawful restraint continues to be used in schools, secure care, residential childcare, mental health and justice settings, and that this continues to disproportionately affect children with learning disabilities and autism. There is an urgent need for statutory, human rights-based guidance on the use of restraint and how incidents are recorded and monitored. It is crucial that children and their families have a clear and accessible complaints procedure to challenge restraint when it has been used.

While various strategies have been introduced in the child protection sphere, practitioners tell us that this has resulted in a “cluttered landscape” that can make it harder for them to understand what practice to follow and to support children and their families to understand their rights. There are also gaps in these laws/policies that allow children to fall through the cracks – an example being insufficient safeguarding for children in unregulated sports settings. A further area of concern is children’s exposure to online harms, the slow progress of the UK’s Online Safety Bill and concerns that it does not satisfactorily address all the dangers children may face online.

There has been progress on improving support for child victims and witnesses of harm through the Bairn’s Hoose model. However, broader challenges remain in terms of resourcing for (and access to) specialist support services.

What have children and young people said?

In their report to the UN Committee, members of the Children’s Parliament and Scottish Youth Parliament spoke about the need for action on gender equality. This drew from Children’s Parliament’s research that explored children’s experiences of sexism, stereotyping, gendered bullying and gender-based violence. The research highlighted the urgent need for preventative action from a very early age.

What have our members said?

In the run up to the UK’s review on 18-19th May, Children’s 1st shared their hopes of what recommendations they’d like to see the UN Committee make:

 “Scotland’s justice system creates standalone trauma. The Bairns Hoose model involves collaboration between police, social work, health and the judiciary to work in the best interests of children. Children 1st are clear that as Bairns Hoose rolls out across Scotland, it must involve radical investment and system change to be effective.”

We hope to see the UN Committee pick up on these issues next week. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up-to-date with the review.

Stay tuned for our next article on family environment and alternative care coming out at 08:00am tomorrow!

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