Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
Today marks the next step on Wales’ children’s rights journey with the introduction of the second stage of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 coming into force.
In January 2011, when Assembly Members passed the ground breaking Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011,it was a clear statement that the Welsh Government was going to drive the agenda of children’s rights forward. From today, the Measure places a duty on all Welsh Ministers to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) when exercising any of our functions.
The duty under the Measure is ambitious but critical in securing positive outcomes for children and young people in Wales by engendering a culture within Government which respects, promotes and upholds children’s rights.
We have already seen the significant impact the Measure has had. It has led to Welsh Government working to develop new statutory guidance on the safety of walked routes to school which will place an increased emphasis on safeguarding as well as the views of children and young people.
Another example of the Measure having a direct impact was seen in the last legislative stages of the ground-breaking Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 where reconsideration led to amendments in order to give greater effect to the UNCRC. The Welsh Government stated its position that competent children should be afforded the choice of appointing a representative to express consent to organ donation.
To achieve this kind of success, it is vital that we have clear arrangements and processes in place so that everyone can work together to fulfil a shared ambition. These arrangements and processes are set out in our Children’s Rights Scheme 2014.
As we continue to break new ground, we have used the lessons we have learnt since the first Children’s Rights Scheme which was approved by the Assembly in 2012. Our stakeholders have been very much involved in revising the Scheme and as always, have been a challenging and critical friend. I want to take this opportunity to thank those who invested their time, particularly the children and young people, to share their expertise.
We have listened to the feedback and as a result, made considerable changes resulting in a much strengthened Scheme with clear arrangements and robust processes which will allow us to be held to account.
A clear process has been set out to assist us and officials in having due regard to the UNCRC and this is supported by a number of resources and tools. The way in which we have mainstreamed the UNCRC into these processes is innovative and creative and is something I am particularly proud of.
The strongest feedback that we received was that in the interest of transparency and accountability, the Children’s Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) should be made available to the public. I am pleased to announce that we have responded to this, with a clear CRIA publication process.
Whilst the Measure requires us to produce a compliance report every 5 years, we have reviewed the reporting cycle and have committed to producing a mid-term compliance report to be published every 2.5 years. The mid term report will provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the implementation and effectiveness of the arrangements set out in this Scheme.
The introduction of the new Children’s Scheme represents a lot of hard work and many lessons learnt. I am grateful for all the input and support I have received throughout the process and I hope that you share the pride in what we have achieved together so far.