Youth work is human rights work

With the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots Law happening this year, YouthLink’s Kevin Kane explains why strengthening the statutory basis of youth work is critical to delivering the UNCRC, and in helping young people to understand, promote and defend their rights.

At the recent National Youth Work Conference, Bruce Adamson, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland received a rapturous reception from the 200 online delegates, as he proclaimed “Youth work is human rights work”. This was welcome recognition for a sector that brings about huge benefits to children and young people, acting as human rights defenders for the tens of thousands of young people they support.

Youth work is one of the most powerful community based assets we have to help us create a better society. The practice nurtures confidence and boosts educational attainment. It stimulates personal development and helps young people manage relationships. It provides volunteering opportunities and assists young people who come into contact with the law. It aids a young person’s mental health and contributes positively to respecting and promoting the fundamental rights of children and young people in Scotland.

YouthLink Scotland wishes to see a country where the rights of children and young people are recognised and rooted deep in our public and voluntary services. We know youth work has an important role to play in supporting young people to understand and use their rights and enable key providers of services for children and young people to do the same.

The statutory basis for youth work currently sits within the Community Learning and Development (CLD) Regulations (2013), created under s.2 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 – placing a legal requirement on local authorities (through the education authority) to secure the delivery of CLD. It would be beneficial to see the CLD regulations strengthened to prevent cuts to youth work provision and to ensure we are taking a rights based approach to service delivery.

We must also consider how direct incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law ensures more universal and targeted youth work provision. Article 28 commits states to providing: “different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, making them available and accessible to every child” and Article 29 instructs that “the education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential”. Strengthening the statutory basis of youth work is critical to delivering upon these articles and for young people to realise their rights under UNCRC.

We intend to use incorporation to help young people understand, promote, and defend their own rights and encourage critical discussion on what an absolute right to youth work would entail. We believe this approach will be beneficial to partners, including CYCJ as we work together to better the lives of young people and strengthen communities in Scotland.

About our blogger

Kevin Kane is the Policy and Research Manager for YouthLink Scotland. He can be contacted on YouthLink Scotland is the National Agency for youth work in Scotland – find out more.

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