Coram marks 30 years of Children Act and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 

  • 13 November 2019

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (often abbreviated to CRC or UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. It was signed on 20th November 1989. 

The Children Act 1989 is UK legislation allocating duties to local authorities, courts, parents, and other agencies in the United Kingdom, to ensure children are safeguarded and their welfare promoted. It centres on the idea that children are best cared for within their own families while making provision for instances when parents and families do not co-operate with statutory bodies. It received Royal Assent on 16 November 1989.

Dr Carol Homden CBE, Coram CEO, said: “At Coram we work to protect and promote the rights of children in the UK and internationally in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, while the Children Act has been of huge significance in setting out a modern framework for children, the responsibilities of their parents and the role of the state. Our founder Thomas Coram, a man ahead of his time, believed passionately that every child was of value, deserving of an identity, protection in law and with the right to a fulfilling life. I believe he would have welcomed both the UN Convention and Children Act as important landmarks on a journey to achieve better chances for all children, and we will continue our efforts to ensure every child has the security, love and education they need to thrive.”

Dr John Simmonds, OBE, CoramBAAF Director of Policy, Research and Development, said: The Children Act represented a major change in society’s view of the relationship between children and their parents with a move from the concept of ‘legal custody’ to that of ‘parental responsibility’. The law has consequently moved from a place where parents exercised what amounted to legal ownership of the child to one where parents had responsibility towards their child in the way that they exercised their authority, provided resources and made a fundamental commitment to them throughout their minority and beyond. 

“The Act also established that where a court is considering the future of a child in either private or public law cases, the welfare of the child – the paramountcy principle – in the immediate and long term is the primary consideration when the court makes any decision.”

Kamena Dorling, Group Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Coram, and head of the Migrant Children’s Project, said: “The UNCRC is 30 years old but is still not incorporated in domestic law in England. For children’s rights to be meaningful they need to be fully considered both in the development of law and policy and also in the everyday decisions affecting children, but too often they are forgotten. As we mark this anniversary, Coram is calling on the government to follow Wales’s lead and introduce a requirement for Ministers in England to fully consider children’s rights when developing new law and policy.”

Professor Carolyn Hamilton, Director of Research and International Programmes at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said: “Over the last 30 years, the UNCRC and the Children Act have had a significant impact both on how courts resolve cases relating to children and on how we view and treat children. But there is still a long way to go. Children are still the subject of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Achieving the UN goal of ending violence against children requires not only renewed political commitment but measures and mechanisms to make elimination of violence a reality. As we celebrate the anniversary of these two ground-breaking instruments we need government to commit – both politically and in terms of resources – to implementing the UNCRC in full.” 

Coram will mark the anniversaries with an inspiring performance by young people on 20 November at the Foundling Museum. Unsung Voices, an immersive and interactive theatre piece is free to attend.