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Children’s Rights from forces children’s perspective

Gary Seath 3 weeks ago

Influencing Policy

Children’s Rights from forces children’s perspective – Reflections by Meg Thomas, Deputy CEO & Policy Lead.

We recently held a two-day residential with eight young people from across Scotland.
Over the two days, we used a range of activities, including Jenga, Snakes and Ladders, and Lego to explore their experience of rights as children from armed forces and veteran families and to begin to design the services they want and need to support them.

As always, I was struck by how quickly children and young people cut through the rhetoric and bureaucracy, to get to the heart of the challenge and find creative solutions. That did not surprise me. Sadly, what also did not surprise me was how little the young people knew about rights in a practical sense as it related directly to them and their lives.

They could all tell me about their right to have a say but did not understand what that meant in terms of holding decision-makers to account.

They could tell me about their right to an education but did not see how that related to their experience of frequent school moves resulting in challenges at times in accessing subjects they wanted, or repeated and missed areas of learning.

None of them realised that decisions made by them and their parents to provide stability in their education by placing them in boarding school or deciding to stay put and have the serving parent come home when they could during their weekends or time off, also affected their right to maintain regular and direct contact with their parent.

We talked a lot about how their best interests must be a primary consideration in decisions that affect them, yet they felt that the big decisions made about their serving parent’s posting or deployment, which affected them most, did not consider them at all.

The biggest take away for me was the realisation that, in all my consideration of what rights were most affected by being part of an armed forces family, I had not considered Article 5 and Article 42.

All our work will be for nothing if we do not teach parents about their children’s rights and help them provide the advice and guidance their children need, which respects their growing understanding and ability to exercise their rights.

We also need to teach rights to children in a way that they understand how it relates to their own experiences and they know the teeth that rights have to bring about positive change in their lives.

Most importantly we need to ensure that children are supported, empowered, and have the appropriate child friendly mechanisms in place to seek justice when their rights are not being respected.

Month of the Military Child has provided an opportunity to celebrate the children who spend much of their childhood making new starts, saying goodbyes, and having opportunities to experience many things that the rest of us take a lifetime to do.

On the residential I met eight remarkable young people who have achieved so much and had so much wisdom on how we could all work together to make some of the difficult aspects of their lives better.

I hope that they got as much out of the two days as I did. I look forward to amplifying their voices and wisdom in our upcoming Rights Report.

Find out more about our forthcoming Right’s Report

We are very excited to have started work on amplifying the lived experiences of children and young people from armed forces communities.

You may work in children’s rights, be involved in policymaking, or from the armed forces community.

Please contact us if you’d like to know more about what we have planned.


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