Protection from abuse, having an education, and getting help to keep alive and well are three of the most important rights that children in care or in residential education believe all young people should have. They also have a clear view of what responsibilities children should have.
The Children’s Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan, surveyed 1,888 children and young people who were living away from home for their views on rights and responsibilities. These included children’s homes, boarding schools, foster care, residential special schools and further education colleges.
His report, Children on rights and responsibilities, lists the rights that children voted for as most important and gives the reasons behind their votes for particular rights. It also highlights the most important responsibilities that all children thought they should have.
‘You can’t get rights and have no responsibilities – that’s selfish’ and ‘You would not value the right if it does not go with a responsibility’
Children identified two key rights: ‘the right not be bullied’ and ‘the right to keep in touch with parents, grandparents and siblings if both parties wanted to regardless of where the child lives’. Both rights have been suggested by children themselves in the past and are not listed in the Human Rights Act or in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children wanted these two rights to be given force in any new UK Act, Bill or Charter.
They also selected the rights: ‘to be treated equally and fairly’, ‘to have privacy’, ‘to be protected from using illegal drugs’, ‘to enjoy life’, ‘to socialise with other people’, and ‘to have a say in one’s own life’.
However, children realise that having rights also means having responsibilities. As one group of children explained, ‘You can’t get rights and have no responsibilities – that’s selfish’ and ‘You would not value the right if it does not go with a responsibility.’ Of 1,173 children who responded, the top three responsibilities were: ‘for your own behaviour and actions’, ‘for making use of the education that is provided’ and ‘for your own safety’.
‘The views of children and young people from this report are very important and should be included in writing any future legislation’
Commenting on the report, Roger Morgan said, ‘Children and young people have given us a superb analysis of the complicated issues of rights and responsibilities in their contributions for this report. Some children have told us that rights and responsibilities should be linked so that being more responsible should earn more rights.
‘There are discussions about having a new Bill, Charter or Act of Parliament setting out people’s rights and responsibilities in Britain, which will include the rights and responsibilities of children. Therefore the views of children and young people from this report are very important and should be included in writing any future legislation.
‘A clear view of children's rights and responsibilities is important to the Department for Children, Schools and Families as underlying good practice for the welfare of children, and to the Ministry of Justice for any future Bill, Charter or Act setting out people's rights and responsibilities.'
(Both photos posed by models)