The Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care was launched nine years ago and the legislation requires that it now be reviewed. The idea behind the Charter was to have a statement for children and the adults who care for them that would address the rights of children in their particular circumstances. The 37 rights in the 2006 Charter are a single reference point, a touchstone by which the community, the child protection system, workers and the children themselves can judge how well they are being looked after.
But after nine years are all of the rights still relevant? Should some be added and others removed or the emphasis changed? And are the various publications and products we use to communicate the rights messages still relevant and effective?
The Guardian put these questions to a small panel of young people at a workshop on 15 April. Working through the rights one at a time, the group agreed that most were clear and still very relevant.
I have the right to live in a place where things are fair
was criticised for being too vague and in need of rewording ; what did ‘fair’ mean and was it the same as ‘equal’.
I have the right to add information to my personal file
caused discomfort for some participants, mostly around the idea of there being a file with all of their personal information that people could read without their knowledge or approval.
‘That makes me feel weird. There would be things in there I don’t know,’ said one young man while another promised ‘I’m going to tell them to burn mine when I turn 18’.
I have the right to know and be confident that personal information about me will not be shared without good reason
Discussion of this right led to the expression of some similar concerns to those above and the feeling among some young people that it should be reworded to make it more specific.
‘It was a great morning meeting the young people at the consultation,’ said Guardian Pam Simmons.
‘Their discussion of the rights raised some important issues and prepared us to hear from other groups of young people later in the year.
‘Thanks to our partners Key Assets who arranged for the young people to attend and lent us their meeting room and their active support during the workshop.’