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Children’s charities respond to Brexit

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Children's charities from Scotland and the UK say effort must now be made to protect and promote children’s rights

Governments must protect children’s rights, prioritise participation and focus on tackling child poverty say children’s organisations in Scotland following the EU referendum.

In a statement issued this morning, the organisations warn of significant levels of social division across Europe and call on politicians to act in the best interests of future generations.

Led by Children in Scotland, they say: “The UK electorate’s vote to leave the EU opens a period of profound uncertainty on both sides of the Channel. While attention will focus on stabilising the economy, our political leadership must also address growing inequality and disaffection in our societies. Dangerous levels of social division are prevalent across Europe. If politicians are serious about bridging that divide, children’s rights and the fight against child poverty must take centre stage.”

“We know we need a long-term approach, with balanced attention to financial resources and service provision. Critically, children need to be recognised as agents of change, not passive recipients of support.

The statement also revisits the Votes at 16 campaign, which successfully secured the right to vote for 16- and 17-year-olds in the Scottish independence referendum and the Holyrood elections held earlier this year. It calls on politicians to ensure voices of children and young people are heard “loudly and clearly at such a crucial time”.

Children in Scotland has also produced a UK-wide version of the statement alongside Children England, Children in Wales, Children in Northern Ireland and the pan-European children’s advocacy network Eurochild.

EU REFERENDUM RESULT – SCOTLAND STATEMENT

Following the EU referendum, every effort must be made to protect and promote children’s rights.In response to the EU referendum result, as organisations representing childrenand young people in Scotland we call on the UK governments and European Unionto: protect the rights of children and young people; ensure children and youngpeople are meaningfully involved in decisions that will shape the future of theUK and the EU; and work to mitigate any negative impact the result may have onchildren, young people and families from other European countries who currentlylive in the UK.

Our work and beliefs are underpinned by the rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Our position is shared with the pan-European children’s advocacy network Eurochild.

Under article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and young people have the right to participate in decisions that affect them. The UK ratified this in 1991. It is therefore obliged to ensure these rights are realised for all children in the UK and to support international cooperation for the realisation of children’s rights across the world.

Despite the fact that 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland were able to vote in the Scottish Parliament elections just a few weeks ago, and despite the fact that young people across the UK are able to get married, join the army and be in full-time employment, they were denied the right to have their say in the most important decision of recent times – one that will have far-reaching consequences for their future.

It is imperative that the voices of children and young people are heard loudly and clearly at such a crucial time in shaping the future of Scotland, the UK, and indeed the EU.

Throughout the UK, 75% of voters aged 18-24 voted to remain in the EU. In Scotland, only 11% of the 72,744 responses from young people aged 12-25 to the Scottish Youth Parliament’s recent Lead the Way Manifesto wanted to leave the EU.

In order to have active and engaged citizens, it is vital that devolved and UK governments proactively engage with children and young people immediately to prevent potential disengagement and disenfranchisement. They must ensure that every policy and legislative decision made helps to address the concerns of these young people.

The long-term impact of this decision on European families who have made their home in the UK remains to be seen. However there have already been reports of citizens being subject to racist and xenophobic abuse. Abusive and intolerant behavior has no place in our society. This message must be communicated widely, clearly and definitively. All children should have the opportunity to grow up happy, healthy and confident – and recognised as individual rights holders.

The UK electorate’s vote to leave the EU opens a period of profound uncertainty on both sides of the Channel. While attention will focus on stabilising the economy, our political leadership must also address growing inequality and disaffection in our societies. Dangerous levels of social division are prevalent across Europe. This is toxic to our democracies. If politicians are serious about bridging that divide, children’s rights and the fight against child poverty must take centre stage.

With respect to ending child poverty and promoting children’s wellbeing, we broadly know what works. We can compare and contrast performance across countries, and identify effective policies and practices. The European Union itself has documented this analysis in a policy framework, its Recommendation on Investing in Children, which has achieved consensus across civil society, academics and policymakers.

We know we need a long-term approach, with balanced attention to financial resources and service provision. Critically, children need to be recognised as agents of change, not passive recipients of support.

Wherever the negotiations lead us, it is children and young people who have the greatest stake in our countries’ future. Children are not future citizens, they are citizens now – and they will face the consequences of decisions over which they have little or no influence. It is time for politicians of all parties to unite around a common moral purpose of ending child poverty. Only then will we build truly inclusive societies where everybody has an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential.

Sincerely,

TamBaillie, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland

Katie Burke MSYP, vice chair, Scottish Youth Parliament

Jackie Brock, chief executive, Children in Scotland

Martin Crewe, director, Barnardo’s Scotland

Jana Hainsworth, secretary General, Eurochild

Juliet Harris, director, Together

Lynne Tammi, national co-ordinator, Article 12 in Scotland

Alison Todd, chief executive, Children 1st

 

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