The Convention on the Rights of the Child in the UK

When governments came together 26 years ago to agree the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, they set out a vision for how the world should treat and consider children.

Together they defined a set of international standards that would ensure all children, everywhere, without discrimination, are treated with equality, respect and dignity, are protected from harm, and have access to what they need to survive, develop, participate and flourish.

The UK ratified the Convention in 1991. By doing this, the government committed itself to taking steps (including legal, administrative and budgetary steps) that would ensure all children in the UK enjoy their human rights, irrespective of gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, language, place of residence and any other status. Like all governments that have ratified the Convention, the UK also reports regularly on its child rights record to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee is a body of experts that monitors and supports the implementation of the Convention across the world.

To date in the UK, despite noticeable progress in making rights a reality for children, there remains a gap between the vision of childhood outlined in the Convention and the experiences and reality of many children and young people. And too many children in the UK are not aware what their rights are and who is responsible for upholding them. Similarly, children’s rights are not widely known or understood among adults, including professionals who work with children & young people.


A summary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child


While central governments have the lead responsibility for the realisation of children’s rights, all adults have a responsibility to respect these rights and help children experience their rights. At the local level, local authorities (ie local government) have a duty under the Convention to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all children in their area. Through our Child Rights Partners programme, we support local authorities and their partners to know, understand and apply children’s rights in the planning, design and delivery of services. We believe this will transform how children and young people experience public services. Ultimately, we want to ensure all children and young people are listened to, protected, nurtured, and treated with dignity and fairness.

Further reading