This blog was written by Lisa Payne, Child Policy and Research Consultant. Lisa has worked on child and family policy and children’s rights issues for 20 years. She was Head of Policy at the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and has led Unicef UK’s domestic policy and public affairs work with a particular focus on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Lisa presented at the ‘UNCRC in Scotland’ series seminar 3 on Monday 24th April on the ‘UNCRC in Policy’. Throughout the series, seminar speakers have been writing blogs that link their presentation with implications and lessons for Scotland. The seminar series consists of 4 seminars held in partnership between Together, the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection at the University of Stirling. The seminar series (funded by SUII) seeks to improve and address gaps in the implementation and monitoring of the UNCRC in Scotland.
Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) is one of the general measures of implementation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). As the Committee on the Rights of the Child has noted, undertaking CRIA helps ensure that ‘all the provisions of the Convention are respected in legislation and policy development and delivery at all levels of government.’
CRIA is used to systematically assess the impact on children of proposed laws, policies or budgetary allocations as measured against the Articles of the UNCRC and domestic human rights/child wellbeing frameworks. It can be used to examine the potential impacts as policies, laws and programmes are being developed; and review and evaluate the actual impact once they have been implemented.
The assessments look at policy through a ‘child rights lens’, raising awareness and understanding of children’s rights and the UNCRC; bringing engagement with children and young people and other stakeholders into the assessment process; helping governments to identify and avoid/mitigate negative impacts for children; increasing the legitimacy of government decisions through greater transparency in policy development; and contributing towards the monitoring of the Convention.
Although impact assessment, including CRIA, tends to follow a common set of steps or stages, there is no single, global model of CRIA in place. Governments adopting it are able to create their own, bespoke model suited to their specific requirements and addressing local priorities and objectives. In 2014, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights reported that six EU States had requirements in place for a CRIA: Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Finland, Italy, Sweden and the UK (Wales). Since 2015, the Scottish Government has had its own Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) model, reflecting the dual-track children’s rights and child wellbeing duties set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
Both the Flemish and Welsh models have been evaluated, raising issues about the quality of some of the assessments: their minimalist focus on UNCRC compliance, rushed last-minute production, and tendency to be used to justify decisions that have already been made meant their potential as a tool to develop and improve policy was being lost, and the real value of CRIA undermined.
These lessons should be kept in mind as CRWIA production takes off across the Scottish Government. To improve and embed effective impact assessment practice, the impact assessment process should:
- Be mandatory, so it becomes an expected and accepted part of the machinery of government, and is properly resourced in terms of staff time and budget
- Be apolitical, so that the CRWIA informs ministerial decision-making rather than acts primarily as a vehicle to communicate it
- Have a clear template and guidance to help officials and ensure consistency
- Be supported by ongoing UNCRC training and facilitated access to additional resources including interpretive materials published by the Committee on the Rights of the Child
- Be overseen by a central expert team in government with the capacity to advise and support, and authority to quality assure CRWIA
- Be started as early as possible through systems that initiate the CRWIA at the beginning of the policy development process
- Be evidence-based and, when the need to consult further is identified, involve children and young people
- Be published in a form that is accessible to children and young people, parents/carers and other stakeholders
- Benefit from external scrutiny through an advisory group with children’s rights expertise
The Scottish Government should also review CRWIA within three years to consider whether the current template needs any adjustments, and give officials an opportunity to discuss issues around practice and the training and support they receive.
Find out more about ‘the UNCRC in Scotland’ seminar series and access resources here.