Skip to main content Skip to footer

Organisations' duties

Children & Young People

The UK has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC), which is an international treaty that protects the rights of children. When laws, policies or decisions are proposed, national and local government, organisations or charities can carry out a Child Rights Impact Assessment. This helps to mitigate any negative impacts and maximise children’s wellbeing.

During CRIAs, it is important to look at not just the rights in the UNCRC but also wider human rights such as those protected under our Human Rights Act. This is particularly key because while the UNCRC is not legally binding, our Human Rights Act is a UK law which can be enforced in domestic courts. This helps empower young people to access their rights and gives decision-makers the legal framework and support they need to justify rights-respecting decisions.

In our recent work with Together, we explained how to carry out CRIAs and how the rights in the UNCRC relate to the rights in our Human Rights Act.

Children’s human rights are particularly relevant fields such as education, social services and healthcare including mental health support. All public services or services carrying out public functions in the UK have a legal duty under the Human Rights Act to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all the children and young people they support.

Organisations also have a positive obligation to proactively protect children’s rights. This means taking steps to prevent harm, such as when Social Services are required to intervene in a child’s care.

Key information

Who is this for:
Public bodies

Last updated
22nd November 2022

Share this

Real life stories

Article 2 issues may arise when the life of child or young person in a mental health setting is known to be at immediate risk such as if they are at risk of taking their life.

Alexander Tekle died by suicide a few months after turning 18. He arrived in the UK from Eritrea to seek asylum but the local council disputed his age and placed him in inappropriate adult accommodation. Because Alexander was looked after by the council, an Article 2 inquest was carried out into his death. It was found that his immigration status was a “constant concern” for him and his mental health caused him real risk which the council failed to recognise. Social workers involved in his case were found to be extremely overworked so unable to provide the focused attention and support he needed.

Article 3 issues may arise when children are subjected to serious abuse or neglect in a way that causes mental or physical harm or humiliates them.

Kirsten is a single parent of an autistic son who has been held in mental health hospitals and subjected to restrictive practices. He was put in seclusion, restrained by several members of staff and stripped naked. He couldn’t see his family and was watched 24 hours a day. While the staff had powers under the Mental Health Act, it was inhuman and degrading to interpret them in this way. Kirsten used our Human Rights Act to challenge decisions about her son’s care and make meaningful change. Her son was discharged just before his 18th birthday with a bespoke package of care and he is now living happily and independently and attending college.

Article 8 issues may arise when children have limited or restricted contact with their family members such as when they are inpatient units.

Nina is a young woman who was living in an adolescent unit close to her family home where her mum, grandma and brothers lived. When she turned 18, she was moved to an adult facility 200 miles away from home. Nina’s family had to use public transport to visit her which is very long and expensive and Nina’s brothers are too young to make the journey to visit her. This made Nina very distressed, and she began self-harming. Nina’s Independent Mental Health Advocate attended training by BIHR and together with her Social Worker wrote to the Commissioners to explain that Nina’s right to private and family life was at risk. Nina was then assessed and moved to a unit closer to home. (Example from BIHR’s Care and Support project).

Article 14 issues may arise when children and young people are prevented from accessing services because of a particular characteristic or status.

Lucas has autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance and learning disabilities. He was excluded from school for hitting a teaching assistant. Although the Equality Act 2010 protects schools from discriminating against people with disabilities, it doesn’t cover disabilities that mean people have “a tendency to physical abuse”. Lucas’ school said this meant they could exclude Lucas, but Lucas’ advocate used Article 14 of the Human Rights Act to argue that it would be discriminatory to interpret the Equality Act this way and would disproportionately interfere with Lucas’ right to education (Article 2, Protocol 1). The school decided to let Lucas return with additional support.

Stay up-to-date

Get our newsletter

Get monthly updates on UK human rights law and our work, resources and events sent straight to your inbox.