European Union and Child Protection With reference to UK Essay
The rights of the children form part and parcel of on going debates for the European Union.
Article 24 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights addresses in specific terms the children’s rights which reinforces the key principles enshrined in the United Nation’s Child Right Commission (UNCRC) that ‘every child matters’. A growing number of the European Union activities in the areas of health, consumer protection, criminal justice, social inclusion etc affect children in one way or another, directly or indirectly and it is of immense significance to carryout a specific discussion on the ‘EU and Child Protection’ with specific reference to the UK and this precisely is the objective of this Paper.It would in particular seek to discuss the efforts of the Commission to put children’s rights at the heart of the European Union’s policy development especially in a context where the EU has specifically adopted the uses of the UN convention mentioned above on the rights of the child. The UNCRC document is by far the single one having a near universal acceptability and if one can establish a connection between the principles enshrined in them and the policies practiced by the EU, one can reasonably conclude that policies do echo in practiceII Discussion:The Green Paper ‘Every Child Matters’ (HM Treasury, 2003) and the Children Act, 2004 (Cth) have set in motion an agenda that looks to the increasing the volume and effectiveness of child-protection services.
The UK Government is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and despite the fact that it is not incorporated in the domestic legislation, yet has a growing influence on the Government’s commitment to the rights of the children. But this has brought a peculiar problem for the policy makers as it has been observed that there is a growing divide between the family represented by the parents and children. This has wide ranging ramifications for family law, education, criminal justice as there are always occasions of emergence of conflict of interests between children and their parents when child protection issues surface that call for separate policies and actions.This is basically because of the fact that the Human Rights Act which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) into the English Law, has both a complimentary as well as conflicting role through its provision for adults and children alike . Family Law Practitioners have consistently been pointing out the contradiction between the welfare principle that makes the children’s interests paramount and the commitment to human rights of parents and other family members (Swindells et al, 1999).
It is also of significance to note that despite the anxieties expressed over such a divide, some children’s organizations have been arguing for the retentions of these divisions in order to safeguard the children’s interests which hither to have been eclipsed (Henricson, 2002).This divide is particularly disturbing when applied to issues of child poverty. Though on the surface, there is something common in the poverty experienced between adults and children, yet, a deeper analysis would bring out a crucial difference in the fact that childhood poverty may have life long consequences on account of the fact that children are vulnerable, dependant and still growing. This poses issues relating to access to resources within the house hold especially when gender prejudices govern the living as a result of which social exclusion of the female gender can take place at the cost of the male child.As a result, reducing family poverty may not necessarily be co-terminus with promoting children’s wellbeing (Marshall, 2003). However, the performance of the government on a purely economic angle appears to be commendable.
The UK Government has an agenda on social exclusion under which a range of measures have been carried out to counter poverty in the childhood (and old age). As an integral part of EU, the UK Government has produced a National Action Plan on Social Inclusion for he period 2003-05 (Department of Work ; Pensions, 2003) that handles broad issues of social inclusions and exclusions.In all policy matters relating to alleviation of poverty, it is dominated by child poverty reduction targets. In this regard, the then British Premier, Tony Blair had declared the historic aim of the New Labour was to end child poverty for ever for which he had set a 20 year mission (Blair, T, 1999).
Intentions have been followed up with actions, which have been documented. The Institute of Fiscal Studies had shown that, since the 1999, the support for families with children has grown by 53% in real terms. It further has reaffirmed that between 10 and 25% of the parents with children receive more government financial support than the estimated cost of their children (Adam ; Brewer, 2004).Sutherland et al (2003) after analyzing the Family Resources Survey, have shown that between 1996/97 and 2000/01 considerable reduction in the children poverty has taken place when compared with other groups. Though dissenting voices could be heard from some quarters (e.
g. End Child Poverty), on an overall setting, there is a consensus in the academic world of the Government’s success in reducing child poverty in absolute or relative terms (Brewer et al, 2002) . Sutherland et al, 2003 are of the opinion that the Government by 2004 would achieve the objective of reducing the child poverty by one fourth and if housing costs are not taken into account in estimating such reductions, it would even possible for a one third reduction.However, the chief plank the Government faces in regard to the child protection does not emanate from economic considerations but rather on social considerations. The Government is primarily targeted in this regard on the ground that it is promoting the children’s ‘welfare’ rather than the ‘rights’.
The rights of the children is not emphasized in any of the policy documents, domestic or international. There is no reference to it either in ‘Every Child Matters’ or in the UN convention. As a result it is bereft of the Government’s obligations to implement the provisions.Conclusions:Thus, the deliberate inaction of the UK Government in not incorporating the CRC into the domestic legislative framework despite its ratification is seen as a reluctance on the part of the Government to accept such a divide and promote the rights of the children as the catalyst for enhancing their social welfare.Reflections:Any public policy has multi-dimensions attached to it and when the policy makers addresses one issue over the other, it results in muted responses from the public. In this case, it is seen that though the UK Government has done relatively well in addressing issues of child poverty, yet, it has placed itself in a vulnerable position when it comes to the question of protecting the rights of the child.
The economic dimensions are no doubt important but when complementary measures along with it are taken, it meets with a larger social objective, for it is not just the economic security that alone matters in such issues but also the social dimensions.Legislative measures are required to address the social concerns also and the UK Government could address this concern if it takes some concrete measures to incorporate the ratification of CRC under a domestic legislative provision. However despite this shortcoming, it can be said that by and large the UK Government shares the concerns of the child neglect as perceived by the U.N. Committee on the Right of the Child, (CRC), yet, there is no mechanism by which one can absolutely guarantee an environment in which the children are free from abuse and violence, especially considering the fact that it can occur within the setting of the family.
Public Policy can only endeavor to minimize such recurrences and Child Protection is only one among them with various issues competing for attention from the Government.