A study published by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) says ministers have failed “to embrace human rights and equality for children.”
Prepared to mark the 15th anniversary of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, the report claims progress has been made in only 17 of 78 recommendations issued to the UK by the world body in October 2002.
Jaap Doek, chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, said it is a continuing concern that the UK detains more children in custody than most other industrialised countries.
He said, “The UK will next be examined by my Committee in 2009.”
“That is too long to wait for children whose human rights are being violated today. In particular, urgent action is required to remedy the plight of children in custody.”
“Two children have died in custody this year, many children are officially classed as too vulnerable for Prison Service custody, and there are continuing and grave concerns about children’s access to education, health care and child protection.”
Mr Doek, who will today address the What’s Changing for Children? conference at the New Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden, central London, added, “My Committee recommended in 2002 that detention should only be used as a last resort.”
“Yet the UK still locks up more children than most other industrialised countries. Why is this tolerated?”
But the Government has defended its record on children’s human rights.
The Home Office has dismissed the accusation that current policy on detention breaches the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A spokeswoman said, “Preventing offending as early as possible ensures that young people are able to play a full and active role in society as they develop into adulthood.”
“Carefully chosen interventions are used by the courts to prevent and reduce reoffending and custody is used as a last resort.”
“The Government takes the safety of juveniles in custody very seriously.”
She said that children are only detained in relevant asylum seeker cases when it is considered in their best interests to remain with their family.
“Cases involving families with children in detention are dealt with as quickly as possible and are subject to frequent review to ensure that the period of detention is kept to a minimum,” said the spokeswoman.
“The Government remains firmly committed to ensuring the protection of all children - including asylum seeking children.”
Delegates to the conferences will be drawn from the 230 voluntary and statutory organisations which are members of the CRAE.