Bill of Rights underpinned by UNCRC could be ‘transformative’ for children
A Bill of Rights, with the inclusion of specific children’s rights, underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), could be transformative for children in Northern Ireland, the Children’s Law Centre has said.
The list of issues facing children in Northern Ireland was recently highlighted in an NGO stakeholder report to the UNCRC Committee. The report illustrated how decades of systemic failure around children’s rights have had a devastating impact on children’s lives, with Covid-19 further exacerbating problems.
After presenting evidence to the NI Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights, Children’s Law Centre Director, Paddy Kelly, said: “At the Children’s Law Centre, we firmly believe that a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland could provide a new dawn for children here. It could build on general rights protections in the Human Rights Act by incorporating child specific rights as laid out by the UNCRC, rights the UK has already signed up to but remain unenforceable.
“We could see age discrimination legislation finally enacted. It could give a voice to children in care, and it could protect children from harm. Every child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. A Bill of Rights, with specific child rights provision, could achieve that.”
She added: “There can be no doubt that children’s rights in Northern Ireland have fallen behind and children have come to harm because of this. The results are plain for everyone to see over the past year, where Covid has exposed a weak framework of protections. There could be no better way to begin building back better than by strengthening the rights protections for our future generations.
“We have the blueprint. The UK is already a signatory to the world’s most celebrated and most complete statement on children’s rights ever produced, containing civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights. Let’s prove our commitment to these principles, and to our children and young people, by incorporating the UNCRC in to law through a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
“Where we’ve fallen behind in the past, let’s now lead the way.”