Posted: 16 January 2017

Brexit: What does it mean for children and young people’s rights?

On 23rd June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union; a vote that will be sure to change the direction of Britain’s political path for years to come.

As the Government determine what exactly a United Kingdom outside the European Union will look like, we asked the law firm DLA Piper to explore the impact this could have on our children and young people.

Their briefing looked at three key areas of child protection, child immigration and children’s health and well-being.

Child Protection

EU law provides a wide range of legislation protecting children from abuse and neglect.

EU Directives push member states to pass domestic legislation on specific issues - for example, the directive on combating sexual abuse and sexual exploitation against children and child pornography, protects children from crimes such as these and creates legally enforceable entitlements for children. This has entered UK law through provision such as the Special Measures for Child Witnesses regulations and the Working with Children regulations in 2013.

Directives on wider issues, such as the Human Trafficking Directive, also inevitably influence the protection of children and young people, as they set out to tackle abuse and support the vulnerable in society – part of the response to this was the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015.

Child Immigration

The EU plays a crucial role in protecting refugee and migrant children.

In the height of the refugee and migrant crisis, this role may be more important than ever. Families from EU countries receive extensive free movement rights, but migrant children from outside the EU who are fleeing atrocities, are also afforded protections under EU law.

The EU’s strong commitment to human rights ensures that member states adhere to a minimum set of standards in relation to migrants. Importantly, special protection is offered to children, especially unaccompanied children; this includes rights to appropriate care and accommodation and access to education and health services.

Children’s Health and Well-Being

Health and well-being is a priority area for the EU, with a number of legislative provisions passed to protect the health and well-being of children. The EU has also contributed financial assistance to member states, where children are most at risk. For example, the ‘Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived’ assisted in providing breakfast clubs and programmes in order to tackle poverty and child nutrition; the UK was pledged to receive 3.9 million euros for this purpose between 2014 and 2020.

what impact will Brexit have on our children and young people

As we know from The Good Childhood Report 2016, well-being of our children and young people is becoming increasingly fragile, with England ranking last out of 15 countries for happiness with appearance.

Leaving the EU may also present risks for child poverty in Britain, as addressed in our previous blog on the EU Referendum.

What next for the future?

As the Government continue to untangle the Brexit web, they need to ensure that the focus on children and young people remains at the centre.

Children didn’t have a vote in the referendum, making it all the more critical that the Government listen to their voices, to let them have a say in how their future is determined. 

Yet, there is one thing that we do know for sure - we will continue supporting and working with the children and young people in our charity, to ensure that they have the very best childhood and chance in life. 

By Charlotte Rainer - Policy team
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