Children’s Day, Children’s Rights, Children’s World …
By Lorna Kettles, Early Years Scotland’s Policy & Engagement Officer.
Sunday 20 November marked World Children’s Day, which was established in 1954 and also marks the date in 1989 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
As the parent of two very active children with a better social life than mine, it feels like every day of my life is children’s day. I am their taxi driver, stylist, appointment-maker and general cheerleader. I do my best to help with homework and keep up with conversations about Pokémon, Roblox, football and TikTok while trying to make a healthy dinner that the ever-growing 11-year-old and the super fussy 5-year-old will both eat. It’s exhausting but rewarding – that’s a cliché, I know, but it really is true. What I perhaps don’t appreciate is that in carrying out all of the day-to-day tasks needed to keep my children active and engaged, I’m supporting them to realise the rights they have under the UNCRC – learning, playing, having a roof over their heads, being healthy, eating well and so much more.
I am, however, aware that I am very lucky to be in a position to be able to do this at the moment. I know that I’m not alone in that the absolute commitment to doing everything I can to give my children the best start in life never waivers, but it would be utterly naïve to expect that I will always have the means and ability to do so.
Things are really challenging for families across Scotland at the moment. Everything is more expensive, but nobody has any more money. People used to have to choose between heating their homes or eating – the stark reality for many now is that they can simply no longer afford to do either. Families who have managed to ‘get by’ are now well below the poverty line, and those who have previously been in a fortunate financial position are having to make decisions they never thought they would have to consider. The reality of this, coupled with a cold, dreich Scottish winter, economic instability and the legacy of Brexit and the pandemic, is nothing short of terrifying.
It is truly wonderful that the Scottish Parliament has voted to enshrine the UNCRC into Scots law and the Scottish Government are to be commended for prioritising children’s rights at this level and their overall commitment to making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up. This is arguably more important now than it has ever been. In order to do this, however, there needs to be an awareness that some of the policies currently in place are not working as effectively as they should.
The impact of the cost-of-living crisis does not discriminate. Our early years workforce, who are historically chronically underpaid and undervalued, are struggling as much as the families they’re working with and supporting. They cannot be expected to provide children with a high quality, positive early years’ experience, when they are bearing the brunt of political decisions which have been designed and developed to give children the best start in life. Similarly, parents – and in most cases mothers – should not be forced to choose whether or not to return to work following maternity leave because the often-prohibitive cost of childcare outweighs what they will go back to earning. It’s time to stop talking about the ‘high cost’ of childcare and instead talk about high quality, rephrasing the negative to recognise the impact of the inconsistency and inadequacy of funding provided. Let’s continue to work to recognise and realise the rights of children, starting with valuing their earliest years and experiences.
All of the rights outlined in the UNCRC are accessible here.