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CHS welcomes historic UNCRC Bill to protect children's rights

Scotland has become the first nation of the UK to vote to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law, with implications for all public bodies including Children’s Hearings Scotland.

On 7 December MSPs voted unanimously to pass the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. It was previously passed in March 2021, but after a challenge from the UK Government, the Supreme Court ruled that it went beyond Holyrood’s powers, and the legislation became the first to be ‘reconsidered’ by the Scottish Parliament.

'Accountability across public services'

The newly passed bill has been amended so that it applies only to devolved matters, which greatly reduces its powers. But Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, told MSPs that the legislation would “change the way we think about children’s rights” and provide “everyday accountability … across public services in Scotland”.

Unless challenged again by Westminster, the law is expected to receive Royal Assent in four weeks.

The UNCRC Bill grants all people under the age of 18 a comprehensive set of rights – including rights to health, education, family life, play and recreation, and protection from abuse and harm – and sets a legal requirement for public authorities to comply with them.

Rights in hearings

CHS is committed to putting children’s rights at the heart of every decision made at hearings.

Although the change of law will not impose new obligations on CHS Panel Members or require changes of policy or practices immediately it does send a clear message that children’s rights must be a primary consideration in every decision that affects them.

Legal protection

CHS National Convener Elliot Jackson said: "We welcome the passing of the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. This means that for the first time children in Scotland have legal recourse if their rights, enshrined in the UNCRC, are breached.

"We look forward to working across the sector to ensure that every decision, service and intervention is guided by the rights of the child."