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When people create services for you to use they often assume that everyone has access to the internet all the time. If someone doesn’t, they may find it more difficult – or even impossible – to access a service, and when that happens we say they are digitally excluded. For example, a child without home internet access would be digitally excluded if they were asked to research a topic online.

Two common ways in which Scotland’s children and young people are digitally excluded are:

  • because of the cost of internet and devices used to access the internet
  • because of the poor availability of broadband in many rural parts of the country, especially in the Highlands and Islands.
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Your personal information is any information that can be identified as being about you.

For example, imagine we sent out a form that asked you to tell us your name, which school you went to and your opinion about something.

There probably isn’t anyone else at your school who has the same name as you, so we’d be able to work out that you personally had given us that opinion.

That would make your name and the school you went to personal information, because we could use it to identify you. It also means the opinion you put down on the form is your personal information. 

Some personal information is called special category data, which has extra protections because it’s more sensitive than other personal information.

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Special category data is particularly sensitive personal information. Because it’s more open to misuse than other personal information, there are extra protections around it.

It includes information about someone’s:

  • Race or ethnic origin
  • Political opinions
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs
  • Trade union membership
  • Genetic data
  • Biometric data (when used to identify someone)
  • Health
  • Sex life
  • Sexual orientation

Sometimes we will need special category data to help us resolve issues that affect the rights of individual or groups of children and young people in Scotland.

We also ask people to share some of this information with us to help us meet our equalities duties.

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The Court of Session is the highest civil court in Scotland.

What this means

When a judge makes a decision in a civil court it can be appealed in a civil court that has more authority, who can decide the judge’s decision was wrong. But then their decision can also be appealed in a civil court with more authority than that.

The highest civil court is the one with the most authority of all. Once they make a decision, it can only be appealed to the UK Supreme Court, and only in some circumstances.

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There are times when a case in a court of law can impact more than just the people directly involved in it. The court’s decision may affect other children and young people’s rights by establishing an important point of law or principle. That means that other cases might use this point of law or principle in the future.

When a case like this comes up, the Commissioner may ask the court’s permission to intervene— become involved. When they do this, the Commissioner doesn’t take sides or represent children directly. Instead, they bring issues about children’s rights to the court’s attention to help the judge make a good decision. Doing this is a way of doing strategic litigation.

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When we say children and young people should enjoy their rights, that doesn’t just mean they should take pleasure from them. In this context someone enjoys their rights when they fully possess and benefit from them— so they’re actually put into practice in their lives.

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The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland is one of many organisations and individuals who are corporate parents.

A corporate parent is the name given to an organisation or person who has special responsibilities to care experienced children and young people. This may include:

  • those in residential care,
  • those in foster care,
  • those in kinship care, who live with a family member other than a parent, and
  • those who are looked after at home.

In simple terms, a corporate parent is intended to carry out many of the roles a loving parent should. While they may not be able to provide everything a parent can, but they should still be able to provide the children and young people they’re responsible for with the best possible support and care.

Corporate parent responsibilities are intended to encourage people and organisations to do as much as they can towards improving the lives of care experienced and looked after children, so that they:

  • feel in control of their lives, and
  • are able to overcome the barriers they face

Part 9 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 puts the concept of corporate parenting into Scots law. It makes it so:

  • there are certain things corporate parents have to do by law for the children and young people they’re responsible for,
  • corporate parents have to report to Scottish Ministers on how they’re carrying out their responsibilities.

How a corporate parent’s performance is reviewed

Corporate parents must report to Scottish Ministers on how they’re carrying out their responsibilities, and must follow the guidance that Ministers issue on how to carry out their duties. Ministers have to report every 3 years on how well corporate parenting is working in Scotland.

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ENOC is a network which includes Children’s Commissioners and Children’s Ombudspersons, who all promote and protect children’s rights as laid out in the UNCRC. There are representatives from 34 member countries who come together to share information and strategies.

As a member of the Network we take part in an annual programme that includes seminars, an annual conference, position papers and participation.

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Access to food is a basic human right, and it’s one that isn’t met for all Scotland’s children and young people. Across the UK, more and more people are being pushed into food insecurity— where they don’t have consistent access to sufficient affordable, nutritious food.

People need access to food in a physical and economic sense— they need to get to where food is, then afford it when they’re there. Economic access means that people should be able to afford food without compromising other basic needs, such as heating.

This isn’t the case for lots of families in Scotland right now, so several children and young people are having their access to food compromised.

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The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child creates general comments to:

  • provide interpretation and analysis of specific UNCRC articles so that States have guidance around putting these into practice, and
  • deal with how the UNCRC applies to broad issues related to the rights of the child.

An example of the first kind of general comment would be General Comment 17, which provides additional information around the right to play, Article 31 of the UNCRC. An example of the second kind would be General Comment 16 on the impact of business on children’s rights.

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The minimum age of criminal responsibility is the lowest age where a person who commits an offence is considered to have enough maturity to understand their actions— and the fact they can be held criminally responsible for them.

It’s not the same as the minimum age of prosecution.

In Scotland the minimum age of criminal responsibility is 8, although a law has been passed that will raise it to 12. But 12 is still below 14, which is the minimum acceptable age in human rights terms.

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Incorporation of an international law like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) means it gets written into a country’s law at a national level— a level known as domestic law.

When an international law is incorporated into Scots law, it has more power to bring about change.

Often, this happens through cultural change, but this is underpinned by the fact the law would have legal force in Scottish courts.

That means that if the Scottish Government doesn’t meet its international human rights obligations to a child or young person, they can be taken to court in Scotland.

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Often people want to get into groups to change things about how society works. These groups might be charities, non-governmental organisations, pressure groups or social movements. Collectively, these groups make up civil society.

Civil society doesn’t include:

  • organisations that are run for profit, such as private companies,
  • political parties and organisations run by the government,
  • independent institutions who monitor human rights— such as the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.

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The domestic laws of a country are laws that can be upheld in its courts.

Scots law is the kind of domestic law that’s enforced in Scotland’s courts.

If someone wasn’t keeping promises they’d made under an Act of the Scottish Parliament, or an Act of the UK Parliament that applies to Scotland, they’d be breaking domestic law, and so could be taken to a Scottish court.

If they weren’t keeping promises made under international law this couldn’t happen, unless those promises had also been written into domestic law.

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All adults can support children and young people to be human rights defenders, and that’s something we’d encourage them to do.

But there are some adults – duty bearers – who international law says have a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil children and young people’s rights.

Because the State is the main duty bearer when it comes to defending human rights, these responsibilities often fall on people who are employed by it.

These would include:

  • Scottish Ministers,
  • Scottish Government officials,
  • local authority staff,
  • teachers,
  • social workers,
  • health workers, such as doctors and nurses, and
  • police officers.

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In international law, human rights defenders are anyone who protects or promotes human rights— whether these are their own, or the rights of others.

A child human rights defender is someone who does this and is under 18.

When children and young people defend human rights in Scotland, they aren’t likely to be shot or thrown in jail. But there are still real reasons they might be reluctant to be human rights defenders – like fear of bullying or of not being taken seriously by adults – and real things adult duty bearers can do to help support them.

A:

All adults can support children and young people to be human rights defenders, and that’s something we’d encourage them to do.

But there are some adults – duty bearers – who international law says have a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil children and young people’s rights.

Because the State is the main duty bearer when it comes to defending human rights, these responsibilities often fall on people who are employed by it.

These would include:

  • Scottish Ministers,
  • Scottish Government officials,
  • local authority staff,
  • teachers,
  • social workers,
  • health workers, such as doctors and nurses, and
  • police officers.

Resources for child human rights defenders

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Due process means that a country has to respect all the legal rights it owes to a person.

For example, if a person is to lose their liberty, that should only happen after a process where standard laws and procedures are followed.

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The UNCRC considers violence to happen when someone attacks a person’s mental state as well as when they attack a person’s body. Because of this, verbal abuse and intimidation are both considered to be forms of violence.

As well as being protected from violence, Article 19 of the UNCRC says that children and young people should be kept safe from:

  • all forms of exploitation,
  • sexual abuse,
  • neglect,
  • exposure to accidents, and
  • violent images.
A:

A child is abducted when these two things are true:

  • they’ve been removed from the place where they legally live or are being kept somewhere and unable to return there.
  • the people who’ve done this haven’t been authorised to do so or have broken the law by doing it.

Article 11 and Article 35 of the UNCRC both say that children should be protected from abduction.

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