Our Annual Report is published – and marks an incredibly exciting year 


Story

The front cover of the annual report is nature themed, showing various pictures of children and young people inside leafs that shoot out from a long green branch.

Today we publish our Annual Report, covering the period from 1 April, 2023, until 31 March, 2024. It’s been a busy time for the office as we welcomed a new Children’s Commissioner, Nicola Killean. As ever, the insights, voices, and experiences of children and young people have been at the heart of our work. 

Commissioner Nicola joined the office in August. We said goodbye to previous Commissioner Bruce Adamson in May, and Nick Hobbs, our Head of Advice and Investigations, became Acting Commissioner for three months. Nicola’s first priority – and statutory duty – was to involve children and young people in her work by finding out what issues mattered to them. 

Our Plan 

We did just that when we were designing Our Plan for the next four years. We engaged with children and young people whose voices aren’t always included and we travelled across Scotland to work in person with groups.  

We also met children online – more than 7,000 joined us for our online assemblies, and more than 5,000 children and young people responded to our survey asking for their opinions. We held roundtables with adults who work with, for, and on behalf of children too, and teamed up with creative partners to deliver sessions. 

Children told us that they want us to focus on:

  • education  
  • poverty  
  • mental health  
  • discrimination  
  • climate change  

They also said that they want to be involved in making decisions that affect their lives. These issues will be our strategic priorities for the next four years. 

What else have we been doing? 

Our Young Advisors are vital to our work. This year we published our investigation – led by our Young Advisors – into the provision of mental health counselling in schools. We believe this is the first time that a children’s commissioner has given their powers of investigation to young people. They have pressed the Scottish Government and COSLA to implement their recommendations. Two of our Young Advisors played a key part in the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s State Examination of the UK and devolved governments in Geneva in May 2023. 

Our work on child poverty has continued, and we’ve urged the UK and Scottish governments – and the energy regulator – to do much more to tackle this significant human rights issue. We have focused on education and gave evidence to the Additional Support for Learning Inquiry outlining our long-standing concerns that disabled children and those with other support needs do not always receive the help they need at school. 

We continued to push the Scottish Government to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law, and we were pleased to see the amended Bill unanimously passed. Most of its provisions will come into force in July. 

We published a human rights report demanding an end to the practice of placing children who are homeless or seeking asylum in unsuitable accommodation like hotels. This can violate a wide range of children’s rights. 

We continued to oppose the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Act and worked with a group of refugee and asylum-seeking young people to highlight barriers they were facing to education. 

Raising awareness of children’s human rights

We raise awareness and understanding of rights as we deliver our work, but this year we also launched two specific projects which included a focus on younger children.  

We created a new book for very young children called Let’s Explore Our Rights. It’s a gentle, age-appropriate introduction to rights. We have produced audio, Braille, BSL, Gaelic, and Scots versions too. 

We rolled out the Rights Challenge Badge with Scouts Scotland to Squirrels, Beavers, and Explorers. This means that every member of Scouts Scotland up to the age of 18 can now earn the badge as it was initially created for Cubs and Scouts in 2022. In working towards the badge, they will learn about their rights, champion rights issues in their communities and the wider world, and ultimately be empowered to claim their rights and help other children claim theirs. 

A woman wearing a red and white top sits on a red sofa smiling. Behind her are some toy stuffed rabbits and a big round sign that reads "Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland".

The Commissioner says 

Commissioner Nicola said: “I’m thrilled to share our latest Annual Report which highlights what we’ve been doing to promote and protect children’s rights. I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, Bruce Adamson whose term as Commissioner ended in May 2024 after an impactful six years in the role. During that time, he diligently championed children’s rights, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath.  

“Children have told me to be persistent and have said to me “do not give up” when things are challenging, and I won’t. Incorporation brings a new dawn to children’s rights but we must keep the momentum. We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure every child in Scotland can enjoy their rights. But for now, I hope you enjoy learning about our work to promote and protect rights this year.” 

Resources 

Read our full annual report, our children and young people’s version and our Easy Read edition. 

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