13 March 2014
Article by Sarah Hatherley, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
In 2011, the National Assembly for Wales unanimously voted in favour of the Rights of Children and Young Person’s (Wales) Measure, and in doing so became the first legislature in the UK to pass on explicit child rights laws. The Measure strengthened and built on the rights based approach of the Welsh Government to making policy for children and young people in Wales. It placed a duty on Welsh Ministers to have due regard to the rights and obligations within the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and its optional protocols. From May 2012, the Measure partly came into force. Welsh Ministers have a duty to have “due regard” to the UNCRC when planning and developing new legislation or policy, or reviewing or changing existing legislation or policy. On 1 May 2014, this duty will extend to all the functions of Welsh Ministers.
Section 2 of the Measure requires Welsh Ministers to publish a Children’s Rights Scheme which sets out the arrangements Ministers will have in place to have due regard to the UNCRC. Welsh Ministers published their first Children’s Rights Scheme in May 2012, and have decided to review the Scheme in light of the extension of the due regard duty.
The Welsh Government’s consultation on the draft Children’s Rights Scheme 2014
closed on Monday 3 March 2014. Once revised, the draft Scheme will be laid before the National
Assembly for approval.
Of particular interest will be consideration of how the Welsh Government will embed children’s rights in the NHS in Wales. The UNCRC sets out a list of rights for all children and young people including the right to: good quality healthcare; a say in decisions about their health, health care and treatment, ensuring that adults have listened to the views of children and young people; access to appropriate information; and privacy. The Welsh Government has opted for national age inclusive strategies in a number of areas of health and social care policy and legislation, for example ‘Together for Mental Health’ (October 2012). The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has argued that the loss of distinct and separate national strategies, replaced instead with an all age strategy, could potentially dilute regard to the intentions of the UNCRC. Of great interest will be consideration of how the Welsh Government intends to progress its rights based approach to health services for children and young people, through all age strategies, and how this is reflected in the revised Children’s Rights Scheme.