Posted: 10 December 2015

Why human rights are vital for young people in the care system

Today, on Human Rights Day, we celebrate how our Human Rights Act gives young people a voice, ensuring the power of public authorities does not go unchecked. Here we speak to Rod Kippen about his experiences working for us. 

 

I am a Children’s Rights Worker for The Children’s Society. In my work, it is crucial for children and young people to know they all have human rights and that they can use them to change their lives. I support children and young people in the care system to become effective at communicating their situation, to not be led by those who would do them harm, and to gain the skills they need to achieve what they want out of life. 

Protections in the Human Rights Act are vital because they put everyone on the same level, a level not dependent on birth and upbringing. They state that all people have the same basic aspects of life protected and are a crucial tool for children and young people to find their voice and exercise their wishes and feelings to effect change for themselves. The Act safeguards essential rights for children and young people, including the right to private and family life, protection from discrimination and the right to education.

Being in care can be a disempowering experience. From experiencing disruption in their family life to having difficult decisions made for them by courts and social workers, young people can often feel they have very little control over their lives. The pressure on these young people to become independent is greater than for those children who are not in the care system because many will be living on their own by the time they are 18 years old.

It is vitally important that young people in care feel they can challenge things that happen to them and know that they can ask for what they need to improve their situation. Whether they are asking to see family, to stay or to move from where they are, for more appropriate support to keep them safe or to have appropriate educational support, their right to have these crucial needs met is supported by the Human Rights Act.

Using the Human Rights Act

I recently worked with a young person who wanted renewed contact with his mother. He has been in care since he was nine and is now 14, and was trying to understand his past, his family and his place within it. His social worker told him that he would be able to see her, but only on the condition that he maintained his attendance at school. My work as an advocate was to highlight that Article 8 - ‘the right to a family life' - in the Human Rights Act is not conditional but is a basic right which cannot be negotiated. A visit to his mother was arranged and he told me this made him feel much more settled and able to concentrate on school, which he then began attending much more regularly.

The Human Rights Act gives young people confidence that what they strive for is recognised and is validated in law which empowers them and gives them the confidence to express their wishes and change their lives for the better.

But the future of the Human Rights Act is uncertain. Today we want to remind the Government that protecting human rights is critical to making sure that children and young people in the UK are kept safe and have the childhood they are entitled to. 

 

This blog post first appeared on the Rights for Life website on 10 December 2015. 

By Rod Kippen - Programme staff
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