17 Feb 2009

Report reveals stark inequalities and reduced opportunities for children and young people

CHILDREN and young people are subject to a life chance lottery, said the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley today.

While some children have many positive experiences growing up here, for others their story is not the same. Indeed for some groups the inequalities are stark.

Ms Lewsley, launching a major review of children’s rights – entitled Rhetoric or Reality - carried out by her office, said that the same groups of children and young people were suffering across Northern Ireland.

“From higher infant deaths among those living in deprived areas, through to teenage pregnancy rates that are more than double those in non-deprived areas, too many children’s journey through life is being compromised,” said the Commissioner.

“Children have told me, and we have evidence, that their opportunities are being stifled, and today’s review shows this in a harsh glare.

“It is obviously not right that 20% of our P7 children have literacy skills below basic accepted standards, but it is happening today in Northern Ireland.”

And, she called for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to be made law in Northern Ireland as a minimum standard.

Throughout 2007 and 2008 staff at the children’s commissioner’s office met and spoke with more than 2,000 children, young people, parents, carers and those who work with children and young people. In addition current government policy and practice towards children and young people was examined.

The result is the publication 'Children's Rights: Rhetoric or Reality. A Review of Children's Rights 2007-2008"

“I am very concerned that so many children and young people are not enjoying their rights in terms of their education, their health care and protection from harm.

“We have a situation where every part of a child’s life can be affected. That can be a disabled child or a child living in a rural area having no real opportunities for play or things to do. It can be the fact that infant death rates amongst traveller children are ten times higher than other groups. It is the fact that too many children have their life chances determined at birth because of the environment they are born in.”

The Commissioner is handing the report to Government and key decision-makers for them to deliver better lives and better life chances for each and every child in Northern Ireland.

Notes for editors

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