The spate of murders and violent attacks committed by young people in London since January 2018 has sparked huge concerns about the rising levels of knife and gun crime and debates about the causes. Social and emotional deprivation and poverty; the disappearance of support facilities for children and young people and the reduction of police in the streets have all been highlighted.
The charity ‘Coram’, set up in 1739 by the children’s campaigner, Thomas Coram, campaigns on issues of inequality and deprivation that blights young lives. It aims to ensure that the human rights of every child are respected and protected. In January 2018 Coram published its report Charter for Children, securing a better future for all children, As the Chief Executive, Dr Carol Homden, asserts ‘the cycle of emotional deprivation and loss, tangible inequality and deliberate exploitation still places young lives at risk. This must not be tolerated as if it were inevitable’.
There are more than 70,000 children in England in care and even if not in care, many children live in emotionally and socially deprived family homes, where children experience and witness poverty, poor housing and substance misuse, the lack of targeted family support or early intervention services. Such deprivation affects their abilities to learn and their attitudes to education and consequently their long-term chances. This cycle follows into the next generation. As Coram’s report states ‘every child deserves to be part of a secure loving family,’ and who can argue with that?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights aims to safeguard the rights of all human beings including children. It states that mothers and children have the right to be cared for and that we all have a duty to protect the rights and freedoms of other people.
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights requires that children should ‘have the right to such protection and care as is necessary for their well-being”. However on 16 January 2018 MPs voted against an amendment ensuring that the Charter will be retained after Brexit. Although the Government insists that rights will still be protected under existing laws, such decisions leave human rights campaigners concerned about the future after Brexit
In, Respected and Protected, Coram calls for improvement in eight areas to ensure that all children have the best chance in life. These include:
Strengthening the legal framework for children
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) provides comprehensive protection for children’s social, economic, cultural and civil rights. While the UK has signed up to this, it is not incorporated in to British law which is of concern less than a year before Britain leaves the EU.
It is vital that every one of us ensures that the legacy of UDHR is protected especially when it comes to children and other vulnerable groups, Human Rights can not be allowed to be weakened because we are not constantly vigilant.
Lesley Urbach is a member of René Cassin’s ‘Protecting Human Rights in the UK‘ Campaign Group.