Childhood policy in the UK: “fragmented, inconsistent and uneven”
20 Nov 2019
The British Academy today publishes work from the first phase of a project looking at childhood policy in the United Kingdom with a view to opening a conversation on this all-too-often neglected area of public policy. Today also marks the 60th International Children’s Day and 30 years since the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK has ratified but has not incorporated into domestic law.
Speaking about the project, Baroness Ruth Lister FBA, chair of the project’s steering group, said:
“Over the last 150 years, the experience of being a child has changed hugely in terms of how children are valued, what is expected of them and how they are cared for and educated. During this period, the laws and policies that specifically affect children have also undergone dramatic changes – all driven by different values, agendas and priorities.
“The result is a collection of fragmented, inconsistent and uneven policies that produce wildly different outcomes for children depending on their location and background.
“How might a more coherent approach lead to better outcomes for children? What form might that approach take? How can we ensure policy-making genuinely gives priority to the best interests of the child and better involve the voice of the child in this process in line with the UN Convention?
“The British Academy’s childhood project is aiming to address all these questions and more, charting the history of childhood policy in the UK, and its four constituent nations, while bringing together a wide range of stakeholders with the research community to shine a light on, and shape, this broad and complex, but absolutely crucial, area of public policy.”
The project today releases a raft of publications drawing on the expertise of the researchers and Fellows of the British Academy:
- Policy chronologies, charting the major policy initiatives on childhood from the 19th century to today
- Four UK nation-specific case studies, highlighting the differences in approach to policies relating to children in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, particularly in relation to children’s rights
- A paper exploring in detail key policy milestones such as The Gillick Case (1985) and Every Child Matters (2003)
- In-depth case studies on children leaving care and childhood poverty and the different approaches and impact across the four UK nations
- The first of a series of provocation papers, in which Professor Tom Shakespeare FBA discusses the rights of disabled children.
Throughout 2020, the Academy will continue to engage policy-makers, civil servants, practitioners and children themselves. The programme will also publish a series of provocation papers on subjects including the rights of disabled children, the need for nature in the national curriculum and why the voices of young people in care must be heard.