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News: Scouts Scotland extends human rights learning badge

Posted 19.05.23 by Alice Hinds

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and Scouts Scotland have announced new resources for younger children to learn about human rights, extending the Rights Challenge Badge to members as young as four.

Following the successful introduction of the badge to Cubs and Scouts groups in May 2022, around 10,000 Squirrels, aged four to five, and Beavers, aged six to eight, can now take part in a range of activities designed to help young people learn about their rights and the rights of others.

The newly adapted activities to gain the badge will include den-building to highlight the right to a safe, warm home, making green slime to think about what is “snot fair” in the local community, and creating a human rights shield to discuss what is important to each Squirrel and Beaver, and what rights they would defend.

Designed by Christopher, an 11-year-old Scout from Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, the badge features the international human rights dove logo soaring over Earth beside the Scouts’ Fleur de Lis symbol.

“I am excited to hear that the Rights Challenge Badge is going to be available to Squirrels and Beavers,” said Christopher. “It is really important that children learn about their rights as early as possible. When I completed the badge, my group made a 'clootie tree'.

We wrote down what we thought rights were about and we made them into leaves to create a tree. We also played a fun game trying to work out if the rights being called out were real or made up. I learnt a lot by completing the badge in my group. It was fun and really educational. I hope everyone who completes the activities enjoys them as much as I did."

Launching the badge, outgoing Children and Young People's Commissioner, Bruce Adamson said: “We are excited to launch the Rights Challenge Badge to Squirrels and Beavers. Children are never too young to learn about and claim their human rights and the activities within the badge will empower them with new skills and knowledge and help them to become true human rights defenders.

Cubs and Scouts have told us they are really enjoying doing the badge, and some Squirrels have tested the activities and they also had loads of fun. I can’t wait to see the youngest members of Scouting in Scotland gaining their Rights Challenge Badges.”

Click here for more information:

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Comment: We've made progress on children's rights - but not enough

Posted 18 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

For 18 years, the office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has fiercely and proudly championed children’s rights. Here, Bruce Adamson (pictured) reflects on progress, what still needs to be done and why we need to quicken the pace of change.

Sunday 20 November is World Children’s Day. This year’s theme is “a better future for every child” – something which resonates in my office. But our work doesn’t just focus on the future. Children are rights-holders now. They are an integral part of our communities, with many child human rights defenders ensuring a better future for all. But to build a better future, we need to ensure rights are respected in the present. We must also learn from the past.

In April, the office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland turned 18. We have championed children’s human rights for an entire childhood. That is a lot of learning.

Rights-based practices

It starts with putting children’s rights and voices at the centre of law, policy, and practice. That means listening to children, and their views, ideas, and experiences. That culture of participation – whether it’s through our Young Advisers, wider work to ensure children’s views are included and heard at the highest levels, or educational engagement like our Rights Challenge badge with Scouts Scotland – is at the heart of everything we do. For much of the pandemic, this moved online and being able to speak to children face-to-face in their own communities again has been a joy. Celebrating our birthday with nursery children in Linlithgow was full of laughter, and of course, cake.

But it’s not just advocating for children, we need to empower them to claim their rights.

Max, 11, told us: “It’s important to know your rights so they can’t be taken away from you.”

Empowering young people 

I’m proud of the growing culture of recognising child human rights defenders. Children from Scotland made a huge contribution to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Day of General Discussion in 2018 (click here to access) and we were involved in the creation of the global implementation guide on the rights of child human rights defenders (click here to access). In 2019 our Young Human Rights Defenders Action Group laid the report Promote, Protect, Defend (click here to access) before the Scottish Parliament with recommendations to ensure child human rights defenders were supported.

A better future is being built by child human rights defenders, for example in the fight for climate justice. I’ve repeatedly written to Directors of Education to ensure they understand the important role that activism can play in education and the need to support young climate activists. We see child human rights defenders in our communities at all levels, demanding radical reforms on big issues like mental health, poverty, and discrimination, but also fighting for the smaller changes that make a big difference.

There have been hard-won victories over the last 18 years, making a positive difference to children’s lives. But there is so much still to be done.

Gaps in progress

Although it took too long to come into force, equal protection against assault now means children have legal protection from physical punishment.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility was increased from eight to 12 last year – still two years below the international minimum standard. Scotland’s low age of criminal responsibility and the continuing detention of children in prisons paints a bleak picture of our commitment to children’s rights. The pace of change is unacceptably slow and the consequences of Scottish Government delays often tragic.

Poverty (click here to access more) has been one of the most significant human rights issues throughout our 18 years, with one in four children living in poverty. It affects every aspect of children’s lives and robs them of their childhood. We have helped secure increased support in Scotland and, with the other UK Children’s Commissioners, have challenged the UK Government’s failures on social security. But there is more to be done at every level. Allowing poverty to continue is a political choice, it’s not inevitable.

Care experienced children still face challenges to their rights. Along with others, our early work helped secure the Independent Care Review. The Promise now gives hope of change, but care experienced young people are frustrated at government assurances still undelivered.

Covid created a human rights crisis. It affected all children and disproportionately impacted those whose rights were already most at risk – including children living in poverty, disabled children, care experienced children, children of prisoners, young carers, and children from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The importance of incorporating the UNCRC into Scots Law

But there is a bright light for a better future when we finally incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (click here for more) (UNCRC) into Scots law. It’s the most important thing we can do to ensure children’s rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled. Last year, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for incorporation. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled some sections of the Bill went beyond the Parliament’s powers.

The Scottish Government has committed to bring forward amendments, but children are still waiting. Every day of delay is a day when children don’t have their rights protected.

The UNCRC requires that we use all available resources to the maximum extent possible to ensure children’s rights. We know that rights-based budgeting and supporting relationships around families, like community and early years practitioners, youth work, and school-based supports, make a huge difference in children’s lives.

On this World Children’s Day, I’m urging all decision-makers to commit to ensuring children’s recovery from the pandemic is rights-based. I’m again calling on the Scottish Government to urgently bring the UNCRC Incorporation Bill back to Parliament and commit to immediate commencement once it’s passed. That way we can truly make “a better future for every child” but – more importantly – it will improve children’s lives today. We can’t afford to wait until tomorrow.

Bruce Adamson is Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.


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Comment: 'We all have a story worth sharing and celebrating'

Posted 24 June, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

As Refugee Week 2022 draws to a close, Jillian McBride (pictured) reflects on the importance of helping young refugees or young asylum seekers find an outlet to share their experiences

This Refugee Week comes at a time when the United Nations estimates that 100 million people across the world are experiencing displacement. These are people who come from all walks of life, many of them children.

Every one of these 100 million people has a unique story to tell. We all have a story, and we believe that these diverse stories are worth sharing and celebrating. That’s why the theme of this year’s Refugee Festival Scotland is stories.

But telling your story can be more difficult for children going through the asylum system.

We are very  proud to work with a range of partners and communities across Scotland to try to remove some of the barriers in the way of young people raising their voices.

Scottish Refugee Festival 2022 highlights

One highlight from the Festival was the showcase from Standing Tall Stories. Standing Tall Stories is a long-running partnership between the Scottish Guardianship Service and Standing Tall Arts which creates spaces for unaccompanied young people to be creative, get involved with art and make friends.

As part of Refugee Festival Scotland, and in celebration of Refugee Week internationally, a number of young people from the Guardianship Service have been working with artists to produce an interesting and diverse range of creative stories through different artistic mediums.

The three main strands to Standing Tall Stories are photography, filmmaking and rap.

Peter Masambuku, aka PAQUE, a Congolese born Glasgow rapper and songwriter, has been working with members of the group. PAQUE has introduced the young people to the craft of song writing, teaching his tips and tricks to find rhymes and construct bars with flow. Through their lyrics the young people have explored themes around the daily pressures of life and their motivation to succeed.

The showcase was a fantastic display of the talents and creativity of young people and included pieces produced in workshops throughout the year, Afro-fusion food and music from the Glasgow African Balafon Orchestra.

In addition, Young People’s Voices, a new group run by the Scottish Guardianship Service (a partnership between Aberlour Children’s Charity and Scottish Refugee Council), aims to remove some of the barriers children face in making their voices heard.

The group has been meeting since November 2021 to discuss the issues that matter to young people, from access to education, Home Office procedures, health and many more.

Policy progress

This Refugee Week, we’ve seen several headlines about the UK’s responses to conflict and instability around the world.

In the same week the UK Government announced that children affected by the conflict from Ukraine will be allowed to seek safety in the UK unaccompanied.

This scheme is only open to children who have already applied to come to the UK through the Homes for Ukraine scheme, where people fleeing Ukraine are placed with private sponsors. There are already 1,000 children waiting.

Local authorities will perform safety checks on potential hosts and the hosts should be known to the parents, except in exceptional circumstances.

This is a really welcome announcement to come during Refugee Week. Excluding lone children from entering the Homes for Ukraine scheme only increased vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking.

Our experience of working with child refugees is that it can be extremely difficult for a child to raise concerns about their care. While for many a home environment will be nurturing, some young people may be living with adults they don’t know well.

Ongoing support is absolutely crucial to build the confidence of a child being cared for in these difficult circumstances.

Throughout the past year, the young people we work with through our communities and the Scottish Guardianship Service have shown remarkable resilience, strength and creativity. It’s been a real privilege to play a part in sharing their stories this Refugee Week.

Jillian McBride is Children’s Rights Officer at the Scottish Refugee Council.

The Scottish Refugee Festival, organised  by the Scottish Refugee Council, runs until Sunday 26 June.

Click here to find out more about the Scottish Refugee Council 


News: Consultation on physical intervention in schools launched

Posted 22 June, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Views are being sought on new guidance relating to physical intervention and restraint in schools.

The human-rights based guidance has been developed with input from young people, parents, carers, education staff and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.

The guidance focuses on preventative support that should be in place to minimise the use of restraint and provides advice and safeguards that must be followed if restraint is used.

It also outlines forms of restraint that should never be used on children and young people.

Education Secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“The draft guidance makes it clear that restraint and seclusion should only ever be used as a last resort and when in the best interests of the child or young person.

“The guidance has been developed carefully, over time, with extensive input from more than 30 working group members. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this important area, including children and young people themselves, to give their views by taking part in the consultation.

“In addition to the publication of non-statutory guidance, we will explore options to strengthen the legal framework in this area, including placing the guidance on a statutory basis.”  

The consultation is the result of work by the Scottish Government’s physical intervention group. Established in January 2020, the group was formed following the Scottish Government’s agreement with the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to develop new national human rights based guidance to minimise the use of physical intervention and seclusion in schools.

The consultation will run until 25 October.

Click here to visit the physical intervention in schools guidance consultation

Our young people's advisory group responds to Human Rights Act reform proposals

16 March 2022

Parisa Shirazi summarises Changing our World's views on significant draft legislation from the UK Government

As soon as we read the UK Government’s proposed changes to the Human Rights Act, we knew that this was a consultation we had to respond to.

We wanted to ensure that the voices of children and young people were heard directly. The proposals contain wide-ranging, unsubstantiated and alarming changes to human rights protection in the UK through the replacement of  the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA).

We had a dedicated session with members of our children and young people’s advisory group, Changing our World (CoW), about the suggested changes to see what they thought.

‘A fallacy of logic’

Members were concerned about proposals that would differentiate between claimants bringing human rights claims to courts by looking at their criminal history.

They pointed out that human rights are universal: “This is a fallacy of logic. If human rights apply to everyone, then you cannot judge on character in applying them!”

They were also concerned about the government’s emphasis on deportation in the consultation and about changes aimed at “groups that this government finds unpopular”.

The group was surprised about the government’s focus on the right to freedom of expression and intentions to  “strengthen the protection of” this right. This is an article protected through the HRA and the government has recently proposed legislation that would limit the right to protest peacefully in the UK. As one member stated, “It’s very contradictory, I don’t really understand”.

Improved implementation and education

CoW called for improved implementation of the rights already contained within the HRA, alongside greater education on human rights, both in school curriculums and beyond to enhance the level of ownership people in the UK have over their rights.

We were really pleased to be able to include CoW’s views throughout our consultation response (click here to read the full version).

The consultation closed on 8 March and we will monitor the next steps taken by the UK Government.

Parisa Shirazi is Policy, Projects and Participation Officer at Children in Scotland

Changing our World

Our children and young people's advisory group guides many aspects of our work

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Consultation response

We've submitted our response on Human Rights Act Reform: A Modern Bill of Rights

Click here to read

Our project work

A range of our activities have a focus on children's rights, participation and engagement

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News: MSPs urged to withhold consent for Nationalities and Borders Bill

Posted 22 February, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Organisations from across the third sector are urging Scotland to vote down the UK Nationalities and Borders Bill on the grounds that it attacks the rights of refugees, including children.

The open letter, published today and signed by organisations including Children in Scotland, calls the Nationalities and Borders Bill “an anti-survivor law, an anti-refugee law and an anti-safety law” which is harmful to survivors of sexual violence, gender-based violence and those who flee persecution.

Signed by more than 60 organisations, it highlights the lack of protection for those who are displaced, the persecuted and refugees who end up in Britain, claiming the Bill “endangers all that movements and governments have achieved for refugees and survivors of trafficking and exploitation”.

It also:

  • warns of the risk to life created by removing the UK from the Refugee Convention, and
  • attacks the government’s commitment to responding to violence against women and girls when wilfully omitting safe routes for any person, including women and children, fleeing gender-based violence.

Call to action

Signatories, including Just Right Scotland, Scottish Refugee Council, Rape Crisis Scotland, Shakti Women’s Aid, Together and YWCA Scotland, are calling for action to withdraw the Bill and for further moves to protect human rights, including for the Scottish Government to:

  • Use existing powers of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 to maximise protections for survivors of trafficking and exploitation
  • Undertake a full review of Scottish Government strategies with a view to taking action within devolved areas to prevent and mitigate harmful impacts of the Bill
  • Commit to ensuring the Scottish Human Rights Bill provides a clear and explicit commitment to upholding the rights of refugees and migrants in Scotland
  • Request the Lord Advocate provides human rights compliant guidance to Police and prosecutors on decisions regarding refugees and survivors of exploitation for how they arrived in the UK.

Click here to read the letter in full (via Just Right Scotland website)

Race equality statement marks bolder approach to addressing equality and diversity

28 September 2021

Children in Scotland today publishes its race equality statement, following a year’s work examining how our commitments and standards relating to equality and diversity could be strengthened.

The project work was spurred by the murder of George Floyd and issues raised by the Black Lives Matters movement in 2020.

While focusing particularly on what we can do to improve representation and fairness for ethnic minorities, the work is embedded in our broader beliefs about the importance of realising equality for children, young people and families in Scotland.

The statement makes clear our commitment to creating a culture in which equality, diversity and human rights are actively promoted, and rearticulates that we have zero tolerance of discrimination of any kind.

As part of this work we are also publishing a pledge of actions to strengthen our specific commitment to racial equality and inclusion.

Measures will be introduced internally to track how we are performing against equality and diversity baselines.

These will focus on areas including ethnic minority representation in our staff group and board; suitable training made available for staff; and more diversity in our choice of images and the contributors we commission for our communications work.

Children in Scotland’s Chief Executive Judith Turbyne said:

“Publication of our race equality statement and pledge today is an important step in building awareness and taking a much more proactive approach to addressing equality and diversity issues at Children in Scotland.

“In addition to what is currently required by legislation, we are dedicated to going further by taking positive measures to promote equality, diversity and human rights.

“I want to emphasise that this is ongoing work for us and that we take it very seriously. It is not a ‘one-off’ or a token gesture.

“We’re also aware of the need to be honest about our progress and our weaknesses in this vital area.

“We want to develop into a more diverse organisation and to do this we need to take forward our action plan and learn from the experiences and advice of experts partners in order to change.

“Recent project work with Intercultural Youth Scotland (click here to visit), and guidance from CEMVO (click here to visit) about the development of our statement, has been enlightening and encouraging, whilst demonstrating how much more we need to do.

“As the representative organisation for the children’s sector we will be seeking a wider conversation with our members about how we can come together to improve equality and diversity in a way that benefits all children in Scotland.”

We are sharing our race equality statement and summary of our equality and diversity work as part of National Inclusion Week.

Click here to read our race equality statement

Click here for information on National Inclusion Week

Race equality statement

Our statement and pledge sets out what we will do to improve standards and awareness

Click here to read

Our strategic aims

We're committed to challenging inequality and championing participation

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On diversity and the cycle of racism

Our recent podcast explored the issue through the lens of a project with GTCS and Intercultural Youth Scotland

Click here for more

National Inclusion Week

Bringing organisations together to celebrate, share and inspire inclusion practices

Click here for more