Huw Lewis, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
We take our responsibilities in championing children’s rights seriously and the introduction of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 is testament to this. It follows a legacy and focus on children’s rights in Wales since early 2000 and the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in relation to Welsh Government activity directly concerning children and young people in Wales in 2004.
The Measure has placed a duty on Ministers to have due regard to the UNCRC and its Optional Protocols when making decisions about proposed legislation and policies and when we review existing legislation and policies. The first stage application of due regard came into force on 1 May 2012.
The Measure refers to people aged under 18 as “children” and those aged 18-24 (including those aged 24 years) as “young persons”. This approach has been adopted in order to be consistent with the (UNCRC) and with Matter 15.6 in Schedule 5 to the Government of Wales Act 2006, from which the legislative competence for the Measure was derived.
Section 7 of the Measure required Welsh Ministers to consult on the potential application of the articles of the UNCRC to 18-24 yr olds in Wales and that we publish a report of the conclusions of this consultation. The intent to consult on this element of the Measure was stated within the Children’s Rights Scheme 2012.
A 12 week public consultation to seek the views of stakeholders, including young people, has taken place and the consultation analysis is now complete and the responses have been considered.
Today, I am pleased to publish the report summarising the responses and conclusions and share with you my decision on the outcome.
A clear message from stakeholders and the young people themselves was that although the period of transition from child to adult can be extremely difficult, especially for those perceived as the most vulnerable, applying the articles in the UNCRC will not address these transitional problems and that there are better ways of focusing on the rights of young people aged 18-24years.
Several respondents commented that the UNCRC is clear about the scope of the Convention and that it was drafted to be exclusive to children under the age of 18. Many respondents were also clear in illustrating that a number of the articles within the UNCRC are not appropriate to the 18-24 year age group.
I have taken the responses into account and have concluded that applying the articles in the UNCRC is not the best way to move forward in helping to secure the rights of young people in this age group in Wales. We will therefore not be applying the articles in the UNCRC to 18-24yr olds.
However, the consultation raised a number of issues and highlighted a number of suggestions and recommendations in relation to issues for this age range.
I have already written to all the Welsh Ministers to inform them of the outcome of my decision and asked them to share these suggestions with colleagues in other Welsh Government departments who have lead responsibility in relation to these issues.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who responded to the consultation and to stress that we will continue working with children, young people and external stakeholders with expertise in the field of children’s rights, to ensure that our children and young people have the best possible support to overcome the challenges and barriers they experience in their lives.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.