Different groups of children and young people have vastly different experiences and even individuals within these groups have their own stories. Children and young people from armed forces and veteran families are one such group as outlined in Forces Children Scotland’s new Influencing Strategy, A Force for Meaningful Change.
Growing up as a child of a veteran, I never gave much thought to my rights, and it just wasn’t something discussed much when I was younger. One positive change I have been struck by when talking to children and young people from armed forces and veteran families now is that many know a lot about their rights and are keen to talk about them and when they feel these rights might be at risk. This new human rights culture is empowering to children and young people, and I hope it continues to develop in Scotland.
Some children and young people from armed forces and veteran families may never feel their rights are affected by military life, but others may feel it has a huge effect on them. For example, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to an education. This right can be significantly impacted by high mobility, due to their serving parent’s postings, resulting in disruption to education.
Deployment can also be an emotional time for children and directly impacts their rights to not be separated from their parents. Communication with their serving parent may also be difficult due to security issues or the nature of the serving parent’s role such as a Submariner during deployment.
The Scottish Parliament recently had a debate on Veterans and the Armed Forces Community. Whilst Forces Children Scotland welcomes this debate and the many contributions raising the issues of children, young people and their families in the armed forces community, it was alarming to see the Scottish Government not take these issues more seriously.
Graeme Dey, the Minister for Veterans and Higher and Further Education, stated he does not see evidence of how young people are impacted by military-related events like deployment that are not already covered by services in schools. This statement illustrated that the Scottish Government is not aware of the needs of this group and how these needs are not being met within Scottish schools.
This is why in Call #2 under Upholding Children’s Rights we are calling on the Scottish Government to “publish a strategy detailing how it will protect the rights of children and young people from armed forces and veteran families and implement the Armed Forces Covenant Duty, co-produced with children and young people, parents/carers and professionals.”
It is clear that the Scottish Government really needs to listen to these children’s voices directly, especially under Article 12 from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is an example of how this group is seldom heard by decision makers, and this needs to change.
The Ministry of Defence must also consider the impact of military life on children and young people. The reasons listed in the paragraphs above greatly impact children and young people’s lives and many of these decisions are made by the Ministry of Defence.
Although I accept that the Ministry of Defence’s main duty is the protection of the country, in order to retain its personnel, it must make sure that the whole family is supported. Families are incredibly important to people, including serving personnel, and due to the unique nature of a job in the armed forces, the whole family is affected by sudden deployments or the need to move around the country. This is why Forces Children Scotland is calling on the Ministry of Defence to conduct Childs Rights Impact Assessments on policies which affect children and young people.
Ultimately, the Scottish Government must take their commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child seriously by including the voices of children and young people from armed forces and veteran families. The Ministry of Defence must also take children’s rights seriously if they wish to better the lives of those serving in the armed forces.
If serving people’s families are not happy, including their children, this will impact their desire to stay in the armed forces. We must continue to empower and uplift children and young people by educating everyone on their rights and what this means for this group’s lives.