As we fast approach the end of the year, I have been revising our children’s rights quiz for 2010. These are tough times and they are about to get a whole lot tougher. We know those who fare worse in such times are the young.
And we know the ideology driving change now is rolling back the state through:
- Shrinking of public services
- Getting rid of central mechanisms of quality and standards
- Fuelling notions of deserving and undeserving
Only 8% progress
At the annual CRAE conference on 19 November, the latest State of Children’s Rights in England report was launched. Of the 118 legally binding obligations on the UK government, substantive progress has been made on 9 (8%) in 2010 (in my view actually 4, if you take out procedural changes that have yet to make any difference to children and young people themselves). I managed to summarise this progress in a single tweet. How depressing:
“SoCR sees more reviews for looked after cyp, support to victims of violence, baby friendly hospitals and reduction in use of hard drugs.”
Longer term trends
So, we need to take stock of the massive impact of this steamroller against a longer term picture. Looking back over 30 years, what is the trend? At a number of management training events recently, I have ended up with the gorgeous diagram as attached: jagged line represents the ups and downs of government policy.
The wavy line is what we might see as the underlying trend. And the straight line is our own personal sense of overall progress (or regress). For example, the inspiring Penelope Leach at the CRAE conference said she felt our attitude to the young and our manner of parenting was going in the right direction. Slow but steady progress set against the ups and downs of government policy.
As the year ends, I come back to posing five questions (www.rightspace.org.uk):
- What progress on children and young people human rights have we made?
- What change in style and accountability of services have we witnessed?
- What place for young people as partners and collaborators, rather than objects of others interest and research?
- What do we need to hold on to help us move forward during these tough times?
- How do we ensure our endeavour focuses on participation for change?
And all this leads to the last question:
- How hopeful are we for the next decade? There is much outside our control. What is within our sphere of influence to continue to promote and establish gains for children and young people’s human rights?
And amidst the chaos and the doubt, there are these weird contradictions, like from the Minister for children and families. At the CRAE conference she said: “For too long government has been lukewarm toward the Convention on the Rights of the Child – an embarrassing and guilty secret. I want this to change and be proud of campaigning for children’s rights, which is good for children and young people and good for everybody, building civil society.” (Sarah Teather, MP, 19 Nov 2010, CRAE annual conference.)
As we start this difficult year ahead, I’m with CRAE’s Chair Mary Riddell, quoting Martin Luther King: ” We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Let’s not be silent in 2011.
Take the quiz