How can Scotland become “the best place in the world to grow up”? This ambition has become a mantra of our politicians and is one I’m sure most people in Scotland wholeheartedly embrace. But what do we need to do to make it happen?
Quite simply, we must consider children and their rights in everything we do. To do this, we must talk to children, listen to what they have to say and think about the impact our decisions may have. This applies to everyone – from politicians passing legislation; police officers holding or arresting a parent; planning officers looking at new housing developments and parents negotiating an acrimonious divorce.
A central concept of children’s rights is that all adults have a responsibility to act in their best interests. Yet, on a daily basis, the best interests of children are overlooked. Spending decisions in local authorities result in children in care losing contact with their brothers and sisters. Decisions made around parental contact in domestic abuse cases leave children at risk of being exposed to violence. Town planning decisions result in children having nowhere safe to play outside with their friends. Decisions in courts punish children for the deeds of their parents. Too often, decisions are made by adults – about the lives of adults – and the impact on children is forgotten.
It is damaging to children’s lives to fail to place their rights at the centre of everything we do. This is why Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) works hard to ensure that children’s rights are at the heart of every decision made. The advice we give to politicians is equally pertinent to parents, carers, teachers, nurses, social workers and even police officers. We all have a responsibility to keep children safe and to protect them from harm. This can only be achieved by considering children, listening to and respecting their views and putting their best interests at the heart of every decision we make.
If we all remember this, Scotland could become the best place in the world to grow up.
• Juliet Harris is director of Together (Scottish Alliance of Children’s Rights), a grouping of children’s charities working to improve the awareness, understanding and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.