The Scottish Parliament’s education and culture committee has just published its Stage 1 report on the progress of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill.
The bill, which is intended to make real the government’s ambitions for Scotland to be “the best place to grow up” and also enshrine in law principles and practical measures that ensure those working with and for Scotland’s children and their families are truly getting it right for every child, is in some areas a ground-breaking piece of legislation that could transform services. In others, such as embedding the rights of all children, the verdict is more negative.
Like the committee, Children in Scotland welcomes much of the bill and firmly supports some of the proposals, which have come to be recognised as the “flagship” promises of the new legislation. An extension in the hours of free early learning and childcare for all three and four-year-olds, and looked-after two-year-olds, is something we warmly welcome, although we would like to have seen a greater number of two-year-olds being eligible, as is currently being proposed south of the Border, as well as more flexibility in how these hours are delivered.
We also back the committee’s call to improve the bill’s provisions for young care leavers, including consideration of the right to return to care up to the age of 26. At present, many young people in our care system are protected up to the age of 16, and then have to go it alone. Would you send your own child out into the big world, locking the door behind them, when they are only just old enough to leave school? I know I certainly wouldn’t and many parents financially and emotionally support their children well beyond their teenage years. It is only right that those who are perhaps already facing challenges in education, employment or independent living are provided with the support they deserve and are entitled to. We also support strengthening Scotland’s Getting it Right for Every Child approach.
Whilst welcoming these elements, we are however disappointed that the committee did not back children’s charities’ call for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to be incorporated into Scots law. The Scottish Government has stated its intention to “make rights real” but without proper routes of redress this will be difficult to realise.
Scotland should perhaps follow Wales’ example, where public bodies are required to show due regard for the convention in their everyday work.
• Jackie Brock is chief executive of national charity Children in Scotland, www.childreninscotland.org.uk