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UN report says scrapping Human Rights Act may deny children justice in the courts (1 July 2015)

Date: 01/07/2015
Duncan Lewis, Child Care Solicitors, UN report says scrapping Human Rights Act may deny children justice in the courts

A new report from the four children’s commissioners for the United Nations (UN) has warned that welfare cuts and the repeal of the Human Rights Act will potentially deny Britain’s children justice in the courts.

The Guardian reports that an assessment by the four children’s commissioners in the UK – the first full-scale review for seven years – has also called on the government to reconsider deep welfare cuts planned.

The report has raised “serious concerns” about children being denied access to justice in the courts – and has called on ministers to rethink plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.

The four commissioners represent the four countries of the UK. They conducted their review of the government’s children’s policies and will present their findings to the UN on Wednesday (01/07/15), revealing how much progress has been made under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The children’s commissioner for England, Anna Longfield, said:

“We are finding and highlighting that much of the country’s laws and policies defaults away from the view of the child. That’s in breach of the treaty.

“What we found again and again was that the best interest of the child is not taken into account.

“…“over the next five years, it will be the case that there will be an enormous number of children through the court system and we need to reflect the need to engage and listen to them in a way that is not happening now,” she added.

The commissioners are particularly concerned over ongoing issues of child abuse and the impact of abuse on children – around 25% of children in the UK are exposed to domestic abuse between adults in their homes at some point in childhood.

Studies have revealed that in family courts “many of the youngest and most vulnerable children are currently not heard”.

The commissioners also express concern over the rise of peer-on-peer domestic abuse between young people – nearly two-thirds of contact sexual child abuse is perpetrated by other children, the commissioners found.

They also argue that the government’s proposals to break the formal link “between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights” by scrapping the Human Rights Act would be “a backwards step”.

The report says that the Human Rights Act “has been vital” in promoting and protecting the rights of children in the UK – and the European Court of Human Rights has had an important role in developing the protection offered to children.

The commissioners express concern in the report that any amendment or replacement of the Human Rights Act “is likely to be regressive”.

The report also questions the government’s proposed welfare cuts of £12 billion, when there are already a total of 4.1 million children living in absolute poverty – an additional 500,000 more than before David Cameron came to power.

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said:

“This report ignores the fact that the proportion of individuals in relative poverty is now at the lowest level since the mid-1980s.

“The best route out of poverty is work – and this government makes no apology for its efforts to raise incomes by expanding employment opportunities.

“Our reforms to the welfare system are focused on making work pay – and our reforms to the tax system are allowing people to keep more of what they earn.”

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