UK Commissioners’ report

The four UK Commissioners issued their joint report to the UN on 1 July 2015.

A joint report aims to look at whether the UK Government is doing everything it should in order to uphold the rights laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UK is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child around every five years, and the Commissioners' report forms part of this monitoring process.

About the UK Commissioners' report

The 2015 report is wide-ranging, but its statements in five key areas are summarised below.

Impacts of austerity

The impacts of the economic situation on the UK’s children and young people are wide-ranging.

In parts of the country, higher property prices and rents coupled with flatlining wages have meant more children living in inadequate housing and temporary accommodation.

Austerity measures have also reduced support services, including:

  • health
  • education
  • early intervention services
  • youth services.

In Scotland, the Scottish Child Poverty Strategy focuses on devolved matters. In their report, the Commissioners welcome the Strategy’s understanding of child poverty and inclusion of an outcomes and measurements framework, but are concerned that:

  • a clear delivery plan is needed setting out responsibilities, leadership and accountability roles
  • no mechanism exists for the Scottish Government to make sure that local authorities and partners deliver on the child poverty strategy.

A number of measures have been put in place by the Scottish Government to address child poverty, however. These include:

  • investing in advice and information services to support families to access financial support
  • rolling out free school lunches for children in the first three years of primary school
  • committing to focusing on tackling the education gap between low-income pupils and their peers
  • establishing the Scottish Welfare Fund
  • protecting families under exceptional pressure as a priority group for support
  • investing in the council tax reduction scheme so low-income families are not hit by the abolition of council tax benefits.

Download our infographic on child poverty.

Mental health

The Commissioners found that mental health services for children and young people in the UK are vastly underfunded. Austerity measures have cut universal preventative services, and this will result in more significant interventions being needed for older young people.

Reduction in resources has also led to:

  • a lack of crisis access
  • long waiting times
  • inappropriate treatments
  • a workforce that isn’t large enough
  • a lack of specialist facilities
  • a lack of service integration.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government has announced an extra £85 million for mental health to be spent over the next five years. This will, in part, be used to improve child and adolescent mental health services, and to extend access to psychological therapies and other services. While the Commissioners welcomed this development, they feel that more funding is still needed for mental health services in Scotland.

Download our infographic on mental health.


The Commissioners found that abuse has typically gone unnoticed in the UK. In some cases, children have been ignored, disbelieved or considered ‘promiscuous’ and blamed for their abuse, and in some cases, agencies have failed to share information.

In their report, the Commissioners stress that children’s views and experiences must be taken into account when measures to address abuse are being developed and that those who have been abused must be properly supported. They also call for corporal punishment to be immediately prohibited.

Download our infographic on safeguarding.

Children in the justice system

The Commissioners are concerned about the health and wellbeing of young people who offend and are also worried by the UK’s high reoffending rates. In addition, they are worried about low minimum ages of criminal responsibility, with Scotland’s minimum age being just eight years old.

Download our infographic on children in the justice system.

Implementation of the UNCRC and repeal of the Human Rights Act

While none of the UK’s nations have fully incorporated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law, Scotland and Wales have taken some steps towards doing so. In Scotland, legal duties on Ministers and public authorities around the rights of children and young people have come into force.

The Commissioners are emphatic that the protection of children’s rights in UK law must not be weakened. They are concerned that repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights may have a negative effect on children’s rights through substantially diluting the protection the current act provides for them. They also expressed frustration at the UK government’s lack of progress around several of the UN Committee’s recommendations from 2008.

Download our infographic on the implementation of the UNCRC and the repeal of the human rights act.

UN reporting process

The Commissioners' report is compiled in line with the UN Reporting Process. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child examines the UK approximately every 5 years on how well it's meeting its obligations around children's rights. The most recent report formed part of a reporting cycle that concluded in 2016.

UN reporting process timeline

September 2015: UN Taskforce visits Scotland

In September 2015, a UN Taskforce visited Scotland to listen to the voices, views and experiences of our children and young people. The visit focused on listening to the voices, views and experiences of children and young people in Scotland around the extent to which their rights were respected.

Read a report on the UN's visit.

November 2015: UN releases list of issues

In November 2015, the UN released a list of issues around how well the countries of the UK were meeting their obligations under the UNCRC.

Read the UN's list of issues.

March 2016: UK Government responds to UN list of issues

In March 2016, the UK Government responded to the UN's list of issues.

Read the UK Government response.

April 2016: UK Commissioners respond

In April 2016, the UK's Children's Commissioners responded to the UK Government response. They then issued a final list of recommendations to the UN.

Read our response to the UK Government response.

Read our final list of recommendations to the UN.

May 2016: UN examines UK Governments

In May 2016, the UN examined representatives of the UK Government and the UK's devolved governments. Following this, the UN released its Concluding Observations around how the UK could better realise children's rights.

Read the UN's Concluding Observations.