19 May 2016

Children’s Commissioner highlights why this is a critical time for Northern Ireland’s children and young people.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, has advised that the focus of the expert UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will be on the UK state Government, next week.

“Children and young people today face a range of challenges and obstacles in their lives, some are emerging and others are rooted in the legacies of the past. These issues not only affect them now, but are having a very real and detrimental impact on their future prospects and wellbeing.

“As Commissioner for Children and Young People I listen to what they tell me; I’ve talked with parents and those who work with them, or on their behalf, and have examined a range of compelling evidence.

“All this tells me that we should be much further forward in delivering better outcomes for children, young people and families across NI. These issues require immediate action.

“It is unacceptable that over 100,000 children are living in poverty, that less than a half of children on free school meals achieved at least 5 good GCSE’s, and that more than 1,000 children and young people are waiting to access mental health services.

“The new Assembly and Executive present us with a great opportunity to get it right for children and young people, who are nearly a third of the population.  They must be clearly visible in the Programme for Government. 

“Central to this will be the new Children and Young Person’s 10 Year Strategy, and making sure the issues are embedded at its core. The strategy must be accompanied by clear, measureable and realistic outcomes, bringing about real and meaningful change that will improve the lives of our young people here.

“On Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th of May, the UN Committee will examine the UK Government’s track record on addressing these issues. This also includes our own Assembly and Executive. 

“They will hear directly what progress has been made since the last review in 2008, and following the hearing, the Committee will issue a report with its Concluding Observations.

"I feel they have an unprecedented opportunity to get this right for all children and young people. And as Commissioner I will be doing all in my power to ensure that it happens. 

“I would encourage you to join with me on the 23rd and 24th,  to hear if the Government has lived up to its promises from 7 years ago, and what it is doing to address new issues that have emerged.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • You can watch the State Examination here  - www.treatybodywebcast.org
  • Key Issues for Northern Ireland Briefing – see summary below and full briefing here
  • The UK Government endorsed the UNCRC in 1990. The UN Committee is the expert body in charge of making sure that the Convention is properly observed by those who have signed it. It does this by asking States to submit regular reports on children’s rights.
  • The live streaming of the Committee’s consideration of the UK Government’s Report on the 23rd & 24th May (streaming on the 24th May is 09:00 to 12:00) is part of this overview process.
  • The Committee will make an assessment of the child rights in the UK and make recommendations to the government to fulfil its obligations and advance child rights.
  • For further details of NICCY’s advice to the UN Committee see here.
  • For more information please contact Andrew McGall Communications Officer at communications@niccy.org or 028 9031 1616, mobile - 07917 544 177

Key Issues for Northern Ireland - Briefing

Over the past 12 months the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children has worked with other Children’s Commissioners across the UK, and liaised with NIHRC and NGOs to provide information to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Northern Ireland. Through this process a wide range of breaches of children’s rights have been identified, and a comprehensive set of recommendations provided.

The Committee will question representatives of the UK and devolved governments on 23 and 24 May 2016, and will then publish a set of ‘Concluding Observations’, recommendations,  as to what actions must be taken by the government’s to address the ongoing breaches of children’s rights in each jurisdictions.

This paper highlights the 12 child rights issues the Commissioner considers to be most critical for children in Northern Ireland. 

You can read about the first four below: 

  1. Child Poverty - Child poverty levels are unacceptably high in Northern Ireland, with over 100,000 children living in poverty, and these are predicted to rise significantly over the next 5 years (due to ‘welfare reform’ changes).
  2. Educational InequalitiesThere are unacceptable gaps in educational achievement and attainment in NI with less than half of children on free school meals achieving the recognised standards of at least 5 GCSE grades A*-C including English and Maths.  Issues of academic selection and the lack of an inclusive education system must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
  3. Mental HealthChildren and young people in Northern Ireland report suffering high levels of stress and difficulties in accessing child and mental health services. Last year, over 1000 children and young people were on waiting lists for these services.  Suicide rates in Northern Ireland have been estimated to be 4 times higher than England and Wales for 15−19 year olds and 17 times higher for 10−14 year olds.
  4. Legacy of the Conflict The Conflict is impacting on the lives of children and young people who were born at the time of signing of the Good Friday Agreement.   They particularly experience problems in relation to mental health, community divisions and the ongoing role of non-state forces.

You can find out further information on these and the other issues here.