Young people need a voice

30th January 2009 at 00:00

The proposal that the role of Commissioner for Children and Young People should be merged with the Human Rights Commission will bring Scotland into international disrepute. We are also dismayed at the plan to cut the tenure of the commissioner from five years to two, which is not enough time for anyone in the post to have any meaningful influence.

We believe it is essential that children and young people have someone whose role is solely to represent their voices to those making decisions which affect them. Their perceptions and views are not always the same as those of adults, and the impact of policies on them can be different.

Children and young people also have additional rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it is important that awareness of these is raised, so that they can be fully implemented.

We are concerned, therefore, that the proposed merger will lead to a diminution in the distinct voice of children and young people, thus eroding their rights and needs in the public arena.

Many children and young people are not even aware of their rights, and rely on adults to inform them. In addition, adults will be less aware of the powerful and constructive views and ideas of children and young people. So we will all lose out.

Scotland is far from having a culture where children's rights are fully respected and implemented, and a separate Commissioner for Children and Young People is essential in a country whose government is committed to implementing fully the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The proposal means that Scotland would be out of step with the rest of Europe and the wider world. England, Wales and Northern Ireland all have such commissioners, and it is widely recognised that they are essential for promoting and ensuring child well-being.

Anne Houston, chief executive, Children 1st.

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