Children set to give evidence on new rights Bill

The equalities and human rights committee will hold a number of virtual calls with different groups of children.

Children will give evidence on new legislation to enshrine a United Nations convention in Scots law.

The Scottish Government announced plans to ensure the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is covered in the Programme for Government in September.

As part of the stage one process of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, the equalities and human rights committee will hold a number of virtual calls with different groups of children.

The calls, which will be hosted by children’s organisations, involve speaking to LGBT young people, those who have been in care, and people with disabilities among others in sessions with Who Cares? Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability.

The legislation, which the Scottish Government aims to pass by the end of the parliamentary session, will ensure public authorities will have to act in accordance with the convention and uphold the rights enshrined within it.

New powers would also be handed to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner to take cases to court on behalf of a child whose rights were believed to have been infringed.

Committee convener Ruth Maguire said: “This legislation has the potential to transform the way public bodies approach the needs and rights of children and young people in Scotland.

“It is therefore vitally important that we hear from those children who, by reason of ethnicity, gender, religion or disability, are most likely to face discrimination and who may not normally have an opportunity to express their views.”

She added: “We want to know what barriers they face and what they think should be done to make sure their rights are respected.”

A call has also been issued more generally for views from the wider public and civic society, which is due to close on November 20 at midnight.

Meanwhile, the Faculty of Advocates has cast doubt about how much the implementation of the legislation could cost.

A financial memorandum published alongside the Bill shows Scottish Government estimates of £2.085m for the legislation to be implemented over the next three years, including £750,000 for raising awareness of the rights of children and £300,000 for increasing the participation of young people in public sector decision-making.

In a submission to the committee, the faculty said the estimates are “likely to be underestimated”.

It added: “We do not consider that the £2m budget set out in the financial memorandum is realistic.

“The budget does not take into account the cost to public authorities of fulfilling their obligations in terms of children accessing their rights under the Bill.

“The budget does not factor in the cost of litigation to public authorities, the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Children’s Commissioner.”

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