Children in Northern Ireland 'left behind' on rights

22 June 2020, Hessen, Frankfurt/Main: Two pupils from a primary school run the last few metres to the schoolyard with a satchel on their backs. Starting Monday, elementary school students in Hesse will again be allowed to attend classes together after months of restrictions. Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa

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Ms Yiasouma has called for children’s rights to be incorporated into law in Northern Ireland. Credit: Boris Roessler / PA Images

Children and young people in Northern Ireland are "being left behind" when it comes to their rights, according to a new report.

With the publication of the ‘Statement on Children’s Rights in Northern Ireland’, the Children’s Commissioner has called for children’s rights to be incorporated into law in Northern Ireland.

Koulla Yiasouma also expressed concerns about the impact the current health pandemic is having on children.

She said: “There are obvious areas such as its effect on young people’s education and there is still a lot of work to do to understand its full and longer term impact and to identify lessons to be learned."

Koulla Yiasouma has expressed concerns about the impact the pandemic is having on children. Credit: Northern Ireland Commission for Children and Young People

The Commisioner's review of how the Northern Ireland Executive is delivering on children’s rights explores a number of themes including education, mental health, poverty, Brexit, and discrimination.

At the launch of the 2018 report, Ms Yiasouma raised concerns about how the lack of a Government was having a detrimental impact on the lives of children and the possibility for better outcomes.

She said: “That one year turned into three and progression has been further affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Today, we are still waiting for the publication of the Children and Young People’s Strategy, the overarching plan that would guide action on improving children and young people’s lives. "

Ms Yiasouma has said, however, it is not all bad news and that there are ‘green shoots of hope’. Credit: David Young / PA Images

In her review, the Commissioner explores how Scotland has moved to incorporating the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child into law, which would require public authorities to take steps to respect children's rights in their decisions and actions.

She also outlines other jurisdictions’ progress on protecting children from assault saying, “Ireland took this step a number of years ago, Jersey brought forward a change in the law earlier this year, Scotland just a few weeks ago and Wales is due to take the step in 2022.”

Ms Yiasouma continued: "We have unfortunately often been bystanders, watching as other jurisdictions on these islands have to varying degrees moved forward by publishing strategies, introducing new structures and passing legislation that has furthered children’s rights.

"It has sometimes felt like the children and young people of Northern Ireland were being left behind and becoming the poor forgotten relative."

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