29 June 2015
Article by Sian Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Tomorrow, Assembly Members will debate a Welsh Government report on how it has complied with its duty to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) when Welsh Ministers exercise their functions. The UNCRC is made up of 54 articles, a summary of which can be found here. These articles set out a wide range of rights for children and young people up to 18 years of age including rights to protection, health, family, education, culture and leisure.
In 2011, the Assembly unanimously voted in favour of the Rights of Children and Young Person’s (Wales) Measure and Wales became the first country in the UK to have specific legislation promoting children and young people’s rights.
The Measure places a duty on Welsh Ministers to have due regard to the rights and obligations within the UNCRC and its optional protocols. Welsh Ministers had a duty from May 2012 to have ‘due regard’ to the UNCRC when planning and developing new legislation or policy, or reviewing or changing existing legislation or policy. From May 2014, this duty extended to all the functions of Welsh Ministers.
The Measure also requires Welsh Ministers to make a Children’s Rights Scheme. This sets out the arrangements that Welsh Ministers must put in place to ensure that they, and Welsh Government staff who advise them, comply with the due regard duty when developing and reviewing policy and legislation. The Measure also requires Welsh Ministers to lay a report before the Assembly. The report being discussed tomorrow is the second compliance report, covering the period February 2013 to May 2015.
When the first compliance report was published in 2013 the then Children’s Commissioner and also the NGO Wales UNCRC Monitoring group provided written evidence to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. Members will be interested to see how key stakeholders respond to the latest report.
This is an important year for reviewing how children’s rights are being delivered in Wales. The United Nations will be examining what more the Westminster and Welsh Governments need to do to fully implement the UNCRC. The UN is due to take evidence from both Governments, the four UK Children’s Commissioners, and non-governmental organisations.
Members are also expecting a further statement before recess from the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty setting out her full response to the report on the ‘Review of the role and the functions of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales’, published in December 2014. Amongst the report’s recommendations were that the legal background governing the Children’s Commissioner for Wales should be consolidated and simplified in one piece of Welsh legislation and that the remit of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales should be extended to cover all matters, whether devolved or not, that involve the welfare of children and young people who normally reside in Wales.