Stormont ‘failing children and young people’, law centre warns
The Northern Ireland Executive is “failing children and young people”, the Children’s Law Centre has told the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
In a report submitted to the committee, the law centre said there has been a “systemic failure” to incorporate the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child within legislation, policy and practice in Northern Ireland.
Paddy Kelly, director of the Children’s Law Centre, said: “There has been a complete failure to make progress on concluding observations and recommendations since the previous examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. This has led to systemic failures, with no comprehensive framework to provide strong protections for children’s rights in Northern Ireland.
“The list of delays on key issues is almost endless. The Children and Young People’s Strategy has not been published and it is unclear if this is to be accepted as the delivery mechanism for UNCRC implementation. No efforts have been made to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and corporal punishment in the family remains lawful with no plans to repeal the legal defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’.
“Homeless children are still not being provided with suitable accommodation and medically fit children with complex needs are not able to leave hospital due to the lack of suitable accommodation in the community. Likewise, children with Special Education Needs continue to suffer due to a long list of operational failures and delays.
“This is simply unacceptable and failure to address these issues is having a devastating impact on the lives of children and young people in Northern Ireland. Things have been made even worse by Covid-19 which has exposed and exacerbated many pre-exiting problems. Where we previously saw gaps in the protection of children’s rights, we are now seeing chasms.
“The current situation for children in Northern Ireland is grave and the Children’s Law Centre is seeing this daily in our work. We need to see immediate action to address these problems ahead of examination in 2022.”