United Nations Children’s Rights Committee calls on the UK government to tackle child abuse
On Friday, 2 June 2023 the United Nations Committee of the Rights of the Child (the Committee) called on the UK government to undertake urgent measures to address abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation of children in the country.
The Committee also made priority recommendations in other areas regarding non-discrimination of children; deprivation of a family environment; children’s mental health; rights of asylum-seeker, refugee and migrant children and regarding child justice.
The Committee is one of several UN bodies established to monitor states’ compliance with major international human rights treaties. It is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been signed or ratified by more than 190 states in the world, including the UK.
Last week the Committee published its recommendations (“Concluding observations”) following its review of the UK periodic report. Among many detailed recommendations, the Committee called on the UK government to:
“Promptly and effectively investigate and intervene in all cases of violence against children, including domestic violence, sexual exploitation and abuse of children, in and outside the home, in the digital environment, in religious and educational institutions and in alternative care settings, and ensure expert support to child victims and that perpetrators are brought to justice”
It also urged the UK government to:
“Strengthen measures aimed at tackling violence against children, including by implementing the recommendations of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in England and Wales, the Gillen Review in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and other relevant inquiries and investigations conducted by independent bodies;”
It is important that the Committee directly referred to and endorsed the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales as well as similar reviews in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Earlier this year IICSA urged the government to pass legislation to remove key obstacles for survivors of child abuse in seeking justice. This included removal of the limitation period for personal injury claims brought by victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. Currently, survivors of childhood abuse are required to bring their claims by their 21st birthday or risk their claims being rejected. Many survivors are not able to do so within this timeframe.
Other recommendations of IICSA were also endorsed by the Committee including regarding the need to provide specialist therapeutic support for survivors of child abuse, and data collection and analysis to inform implementation of national strategies to address child abuse.
It is disappointing that last month, instead of fully and promptly implementing the IICSA recommendation the government announced further consultation and evidence gathering. Now pressure is growing on the UK government, both domestically and internationally, to urgently take serious measures to tackle child abuse.
It is clear that what survivors of child abuse need, is urgent action by the UK government and the UN agrees with them.