CYCJ has contributed evidence to a major assessment of the impact of COVID-19 policies on children’s rights in Scotland.
The Independent Children’s Rights Impact Assessment is the biggest children’s rights impact assessment in the world to be done on laws and policies passed in response to COVID-19.
Undertaken by the Observatory of Children’s Human Rights Scotland and commissioned by Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner, it is a thorough analysis of how emergency laws and policies around the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted the human rights of children and young people in Scotland.
The pandemic has affected every aspect of the lives of children and young people in Scotland. The emergency measures taken because of it – both in Scotland and across the world – were needed to protect people’s human rights to life and health. However, they have also had significant negative impacts on the human rights of children and young people.
CYCJ gathered the views of children and young people with experience of the justice system, and youth justice practitioners, on COVID-19 and associated restrictions. These findings feature in Appendix 9 of the Assessment, which focuses on children in conflict with the law & children in secure care. The biggest issues facing children and young people in the justice system were isolation and lack of contact with others. Boredom, lack of activity and being stuck at home were also reported to be significant issues in complying with restrictions.
A finding of particular concern was the impact of changes to the operation and processes of the justice system across all areas of the Whole System Approach. It is also concerning that some children and young people feel afraid of or targeted by the police – despite others detailing a more positive response and practitioners finding their response to be appropriate.
The Impact Assessment supports the recommendations made in CYCJ’s ‘Rights Respecting? Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law’ 2020 report, which calls for major reform to Scotland’s youth justice system if it is to meet UN regulations on the rights of the child.
Claire Lightowler, Director of CYCJ and author of ‘Rights Respecting? Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law’ said:
“There is little doubt that COVID-19 has brought unprecedented and challenging circumstances and unimaginable changes to everyone’s lives. Although work is being undertaken to explore children and young people’s views and experiences of COVID-19, as well of those supporting them, we identified a gap in the insights and information from those involved in the youth justice system. This includes children and young people who are deprived of their liberty and who are not able to have usual contact with their support network during this difficult time.
“During the pandemic, children’s rights have not always been respected. Decision-making processes have struggled to meaningfully respect children’s rights to be active participants in decisions made about them, requiring a redesign of these processes. Consideration has not been given to children’s rights when decisions were made on important issues, including the detention of children under emergency legislation and the rules for early release of prisoners. In addition, the impact of the inconsistent definition of ‘a child’ in Scots law has really been exposed during the pandemic.”
Image courtesy of CYPCS