In cases of alleged abuse or suspected harm children and young people have the right to be protected from significant maltreatment under the Children Act 1989, Every Child Matters 2004 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Staff and volunteers must respect the rights, dignity and worth of every person and treat everyone equally within the context of the activity.
Every Child Matters seeks to fully recognise and address the rights of children to improve their emotional, physical and psychological well-being. In fact, the Government aims to ensure that all children and young people are healthy by having access to a variety of physical activity and living a healthy life. Any organisation that provides a service to children and young people, must ensure that they look after the welfare of their clients.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989, included a provision that introduced the right of all children capable of forming a view, to be heard and to be taken seriously. The provision, outlined in Article 12 of the Convention, states that:
“States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
Therefore, governments have to provide children and young people with the freedom and opportunities to express their views and they must consider these views in a meaningful way. In fact, children should be listened to and within certain circumstances these should be applied. The Convention came into force in September 1990 and is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights (civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights). The four core principles of the Convention are:
2. Devotion to the best interests of the child;
3. Right to life, survival and development;
4. Respect for the views of the child.
All this means that for a child or a young person who is suspected of being abused or in case a child discloses abuse, the primary concern will be to ensure that the child is protected from further abuse and the child’s welfare will always be the priority. Wherever possible the child should be allowed to remain in their family home and protection will be achieved by working with the child’s parents or carers without the need to remove the child. However, if the child is suffering from physical or sexual abuse within the family’s premises, then they will be removed from their home to protect them from any further harm. A child or a young person has also the right not to be subjected to repeated medical examinations following any allegations of abuse, whether of a physical or sexual nature. Children and young people should be fully informed of everything that is happening to them and they should be consulted sensitively.
Families have the primary responsibility for the upbringing, protection and development of their children. Parents and carers have the right to be informed of suspected abuse and have the right to know what is being said about them and to contribute their own views and opinions. In fact, parents or carers have the right to contribute their own views and opinions; however, if the child or young person is suffering significant harm then the parents or carers have no immediate rights. For the most part, the law allows parents to bring up their children according to their own values and beliefs. This means that parents have the right to seek legal advice at any stage of the intervention, and they can make decisions about their own child’s or young person’s development without interference unless the parent’s action (or inaction) may cause further harm or places the child at risk of harm.
Staff and volunteers must always respect the rights, dignity and worth of every person involved and treat everyone equally within the context.