|Janet Finch-Saunders AC|
|Lynne Neagle AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Rhianon Passmore AC||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Dawn Bowden|
|Substitute for Dawn Bowden|
|Sian Gwenllian AC|
|Suzy Davies AC|
|Dr Phillip Connor||Ymgynghorydd mewn Haematoleg Baediatrig, Arweinydd Ymchwil a Datblygu'r Gyfarwyddiaeth, Ysbyty Arch Noa i Blant Cymruhaematoleg|
|Consultant in Paediatric Haematology, Directorate Research and Development Lead, Noah's Ark Children's Hospital for Wales|
|Dr Simon Hoffman||Athro Cyswllt, Prifysgol Abertawe|
|Associate Professor, Swansea University|
|Hannah Wharf||Prif Arferydd, Y Comisiwn Cydraddoldeb a Hawliau Dynol|
|Principal, Equality and Human Rights Commission|
|Melissa Wood||Uwch-gydymaith, Y Comisiwn Cydraddoldeb a Hawliau Dynol|
|Senior Associate, Equality and Human Rights Commission|
|Rachel Thomas||Pennaeth Polisi a Materion Cyhoeddus, Comisiynydd Plant Cymru|
|Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Children’s Commissioner for Wales|
|Rhian Croke||Cynghorydd Hawliau Dynol Plant, Hawliau Dynol Cymru|
|Children’s Human Rights Advisor, Human Rights Wales|
|Rhian Thomas Turner||Uwch-reolwr Gweithrediadau, Ysbyty Arch Noa i Blant Cymru|
|Senior Operations Manager, Noah's Ark Children's Hospital for Wales|
|Sean O’Neill||Cyfarwyddwr Polisi, Plant yng Nghymru|
|Policy Director, Children in Wales|
|Tim Ruscoe||Swyddog Materion Cyhoeddus a Chyfranogiad, Barnardo's Cymru|
|Public Affairs and Participation Officer, Barnardo’s Cymru|
|Yr Athro Sally Holland||Comisiynydd Plant Cymru|
|Children’s Commissioner for Wales|
|Sarah Bartlett||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Tanwen Summers||Ail Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau||1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest|
|2. Ymchwiliad i Hawliau Plant yng Nghymru: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 1||2. Inquiry into Children's Rights in Wales: Evidence Session 1|
|3. Ymchwiliad i Hawliau Plant yng Nghymru: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 2||3. Inquiry into Children's Rights in Wales: Evidence Session 2|
|4. Ymchwiliad i Hawliau Plant yng Nghymru: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 3||4. Inquiry into Children's Rights in Wales: Evidence Session 3|
|5. Ymchwiliad i Hawliau Plant yng Nghymru: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 4||5. Inquiry into Children's Rights in Wales: Evidence Session 4|
|6. Papurau i’w Nodi||6. Papers to Note|
|7. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod||7. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. I've received apologies for absence from Dawn Bowden AM. I'm pleased to welcome Rhianon Passmore, who is substituting this morning. Can I ask whether there are any declarations of interest, please? And we've now received apologies from Hefin David. Are there any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay. Thank you.
Item 2 this morning is our first evidence session for our inquiry on children's rights in Wales. I'm very pleased to welcome the Wales United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child monitoring group, in particular Sean O'Neill, policy director, Children in Wales; Tim Ruscoe, public affairs and participation officer at Barnardo's Cymru; and Dr Simon Hoffman, who is an associate professor at Swansea University. Thank you, all, for coming, and thank you for the paper that you provided for us in advance of the meeting. If you're happy, we'll go straight into questions from Members, and the first questions are from Siân Gwenllian.
Bore da. You'll need your headsets, yes.
Cwestiwn cyffredinol i gychwyn, felly, ynglŷn â gweithredu’r Mesur yng Nghymru. Ydy’r Mesur wedi dylanwadu ar sut mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn gwneud penderfyniadau sy’n effeithio ar blant? Ydy o wedi dylanwadu'n gyfartal ar draws holl bortffolios y Llywodraeth, ac oes yna rai meysydd policy sydd angen ffocws penodol?
A general question to start, therefore, in terms of implementing the Measure in Wales. Has the Measure influenced how Welsh Government makes decisions that affect children? Has it influenced equally across all the portfolios of Government, and are there any policy areas that require a specific focus?
Okay. Diolch. Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Siân, for the question. we very much welcome the opportunity to give evidence today and very much welcome the focus on this inquiry. We are, as an organisation, as an alliance, very supportive of the Measure, and I think that's really important to kind of stress very early on, and in terms of what the Measure is trying to achieve across Government in terms of ensuring that Welsh Government do have due regard to the UNCRC in all their activities and functions.
As you'll be aware, the observatory and we in Children in Wales conducted a piece of research last year on the effects of the Measure—rapid research on effects of the Measure to date—and we were delighted to take on this work because this was the first opportunity we'd had to drill down and see what the effects have been over the last five years since the Measure's been in full force, and how the learning could help look at other approaches in Wales to take forward—other human rights treaties as well as ways in which the Measure could be strengthened and implemented.
In general, the study found that the Measure had achieved its objectives in embedding the CRC in policy making, and there was greater visibility and attention given to the CRC when officials on behalf of Welsh Ministers were going through the process. The CRC was being used more as a reference point for policy development and decision making in Wales very early on, and I think there was very much great support for the children's rights impact assessment— the CRIA process—as part of that as the vehicle to take forward the due-regard duty.
The Measure's also provided opportunities for external stakeholders such as us to use rights-based language more confidently in engaging with Welsh Government's decision-making process, and this was seen as a positive development. And there are new accountability mechanisms, as you're aware, within that, particularly around the compliance report and the CRIA.
It also recognised that we've gone a lot further in Wales than other parts of the UK. So, I think that's something else to celebrate very early on. However, I think we felt what emerged from that piece of research is that we're still on a journey, and if it's having the desired impact, as intended, and it's to be fully embedded across the whole of Government, there are areas and procedures that will require strengthening.
So, on a journey, you say, and you have pointed to some influence that this is having, but, in terms of influencing the outcomes for children, is it actually achieving that?
I think we very much saw that the Measure is the template to help Government develop better policies. So, I think that was really important. We didn't feel it was there to prescribe policy outcomes but to ensure that the CRC is taken into account when policy is being developed. However, of course, we would then hope that Measure develops better policies across the whole of Government that then leads to better outcomes for children and young people, which is the reason we're all here today.
I'd obviously adopt what Sean has said. I think I would add a little bit on what he said about the Measure's intent. The Measure was introduced with a very specific purpose, following on from a set of concluding observations back in 2008, and it was intended to influence the culture and policy development within the Welsh Government. The way I often put it nowadays is to get the UNCRC upstream in policy development and to influence policy making without necessarily focusing on outcomes. And, as Sean has said, the Measure has been very successful in achieving that objective, in particular through the introduction of child rights impact assessments and raising the visibility of children's rights within the Welsh Government.
I think it's interesting, the question, 'Has it been across all of Welsh Government?' Our research certainly found that it was not as pervasive as was intended, and, in particular, there were some departments, those departments perhaps more traditionally concerned with issues of children's rights, that were more inclined, for example, to carry out CRIA and to focus on doing CRIA effectively.
So, in addition to what Sean said, I think I would also emphasise that the Measure is not focused on outcomes, but it has, actually, delivered, I think, some key benefits in relation to outcomes for children. I think we can see, in particular by looking at the influence of CRIA within the Welsh Government and on policy and legislation, that CRIA has certainly led to some better policy outcomes, and, by that, I mean policy that we see as being more consistent with children's rights. So, for example, the child poverty strategy I think was much improved by the application of CRIA, as was guidance in relation to the well-being of future generations legislation. We've also seen CRIA influence the development of the social services legislation, as well as legislation on additional learning needs.
I get all that, but if it's not actually affecting—if it's not bringing child poverty down in Wales, what is the point of it all?
I think it is difficult. It's always difficult, actually, to measure through a decision to an outcome—an outcome of lived experience for people, in this instance, children and young people. That process is incredibly difficult to measure: how did this change link back to the policy decision?
Your initial question was: how has the Measure influenced Government and also outcomes? To be very positive, as Sean alluded to, the environment is very much more children's rights focused. As a sector, we have looked at some of the things Government have done, not necessarily on a policy level, but things that they've done within their own structures. So, we've seen a fluctuation of what we think is how children might be prioritised. We've had a Minister for children, then we haven't had a Minister, then we had a Deputy Minister. So, there's been a fluctuation—children's sub-committee, no children's sub-committee. But, none of those processes seem to have been informed by any children's rights impact process and how that decision making might actually influence how a philosophical approach might be applied.
I think there have been some positive outcomes for children and young people, and some of those are directly related back to some practitioners feeling better enabled to support a rights-based approach in delivering a statutory function, undoubtedly. It's not necessarily linked back to what they're expected to do, but what they feel they should do, so, sometimes, the positive impact is because people feel that they should be, but not that they're told to. For all of the impacts, positive impacts, that we've had on outcomes, we have more deficient outcomes stacking up behind us. Every time we've got something right, there's something else we haven't got right. So, it's a never-ending pot of outcome requirement, of need, and we'll never get to the point where there's no need, no matter how well we meet outcomes.
Siân, have you got a further question, because also Suzy wants to come in?
Is that all right? I want to talk about CRIAs if that's okay; we might as well deal with that now. I heard what you said, that the CRIAs have made a difference, and that, actually, you're feeling generally positive towards them—
Oh, I thought that's what I was—. I'll leave it, if that's okay.
I thought you'd finished, so—.
Before you go on to resources, can I just ask—? You said that there were some departments that weren't making the grade in terms of proper due regard to children's rights. Are you able to tell us which they are?
I can tell you which departments we saw as doing more CRIAs, and doing them more consistently with good practice. They would be the departments like the children and families branch, for example, or CRIAs that are done in relation to education or child poverty. These are the ones that tend to be done better, and I go back, not only to our research in 2018 to confirm that, but some research I did in 2015 on CRIAs, to confirm that.
As far as departments that are not necessarily engaging with CRIAs to the extent that might be anticipated given the due-regard duty, rather than talk about departments, I could perhaps give an example of where a CRIA wasn't carried out, which was on the Welsh Government's budget, where you would anticipate that there would be a CRIA, but there wasn't a CRIA carried out. And the reason given for that was that the Welsh Government was moving to integrated impact assessment, but that rather diluted the focus on child rights impact assessment.
Okay. Well, the committee's had a lot to say about the budget process, and I'll bring Siân in now for some more questions on that.
Yes, just generally around the budget, have you seen positive examples of how the Measure's been used to influence how the budget is divvied out, basically? And are there good examples where—? Are there examples where this hasn't happened? You've talked in general terms, but, in more specific terms, have you seen budget decisions not taking into account the—?
In my own work, I haven't, and, in the research—as has already been said, the research had a very specific purpose, and it would have been very difficult for us, in the timescale, to focus on, for example, how the Measure has influenced decisions, and then, from there, how the Measure has influenced implementation through, for example, the allocation of budget or financial support to support particular policies. So, personally, I'm not aware of—. Certainly, I haven't worked on any study that has looked at the impact of the Measure in relation to budget allocations.
Yes. The 2018 study—. I wouldn't say it's superficial. [Laughter.] I would say it has a—
It has a particular reference framework for the research, which was to look at the impact of the Measure in the context of the bigger objectives for the Measure, which was to enhance policy making at a cultural level.
So, obviously, the next piece of research needs to be around that, I should think.
Well, the difficulty there is, when we set out to undertake the research, we did give consideration to how we could track outcomes from legislation, and the legislation sits at a particular level in the policy-making process—at the highest level in the policy-making process. And it would be very difficult to track causation from the framework into delivery. And, by the way, that's not just an issue with this research, with the research we carried out for the Equality and Human Rights Commission; that's an issue with research generally on legislative measures to integrate the convention. The causation problem is a problem, is a challenge, that faces all researchers. But, yes, there could be a discrete piece of work done on outcomes, and trying to relate them back to the legislative framework.
Yes, I was just going to come in, just in terms of—just to build on the points that Simon's made. In terms of this year's budget, we obviously welcome the scrutiny from the three committees that's been undertaken on that. I think, for us, there needs to be a full impact assessment done against the budget. The UN committee has been very vocal on this, and provided general comment 19 on public budgeting to help states be more transparent in their budgets, because, whilst we’re seeing CRIAs against particular policy development, we haven’t got that holistic flavour of what’s being spent on children and what the impact is, where are potential cuts being made, or where there’s money moved from one pot to the other. It’s very difficult for us outside of Government to get a full flavour of what the impact of this is going to be on children’s expenditure, because, if the Government are promoting investing in children, which we would say they need to be more, we need to have a more transparent budgeting mechanism so we can see it more holistically. So, a full impact assessment, and full scrutiny against that impact assessment, is something that we would very much welcome through the CRIA process and, obviously, then a children’s budget statement—again, I know that the former committee has called for a children’s budget statement, but we’ve yet to have one—so that children and young people can see what is being spent on them as well.
In terms of delivering service, we’re in very difficult times. Commissioning arrangements are changing, commissioning arrangements are becoming more forthright in telling us how we might deliver services and the expectation of a commissioner in what we might deliver. We know that, when that happens, delivering in terms of a rights focus can frequently be seen as optional and not essential. And we do see that now that, if we wanted to deliver in a rights focus, our commissioner might take us back to, ‘We need you to meet these quantifiable outcomes rather than this qualitative outcome.’
You've partially answered it, in terms of the gap in terms of children's rights equality assessment and the more holistic overview that you talked about in regard to a children's budget statement, which would be welcomed. So, in regard to extrapolating a little bit around that, what is the current situation? Are you saying that there isn't that focus on children's rights equality impact assessments, and it is more around the integrated equality assessment? Can you just explain that a little bit more for me, because I'm slightly confused?
It's difficult to know, because the feeling I have, looking on at this process, is that we're in a period of transition to integrated impact assessment. I was very comforted by the fact that, when I looked at the template for the integrated impact assessment, the child rights element was virtually intact and—
I think the difficulty for me—
It hasn't been lost in terms of the template that’s applied. I think my concern would be around the process that takes place. So, the initial stage of the integrated impact assessment is a gateway stage to determine whether or not other impact assessments should be applied. And the gateway stage is very much focused on well-being and the well-being objectives. And that suggests to me that whoever undertakes that stage of the CRIA process will be an expert in that particular framework—in the well-being framework—not necessarily an expert in child rights impact assessment. So, it concerns me that, first of all, there’s not going to be a need identified for a full child rights impact assessment.
And then, of course, the next issue is an issue that has been, I think, plaguing child rights impact assessments since they were first introduced, which is, when the person who carries the child rights impact assessment—if you get to that stage—carries out the assessment do they have the knowledge and expertise to do it, or will they be someone who’s more focused on other policy objectives, such as well-being objectives.
I think there's certainly the potential for it to get lost, and for a diminution of the expertise and experience that is brought to child rights impact assessment, yes.
Okay, we move on then to talk about mechanisms to deliver the Measure. Suzy.
Yes. I'm going to ask about the scheme in a minute, but, while we're still talking about CRIAs, let's do all that together. I was interested in what you said—that you think things have improved with CRIAs and there are certain departments within Government that seem to acknowledge them more than others, and you mentioned the obvious ones, really—the family unit and so forth. What have you got to say, then, to the children's commissioner's point that when she was trying to find out whether there were CRIAs done on the school uniform grant, the minority ethnic achievement grant and the all-Wales school liaison programme—things that obviously would have CRIAs attached to them, in my view—they weren't forthcoming? Is this as good as you think it is within Government?
I think there are some very good examples of some very good CRIAs and CRIA process, and, also, some good transparency around CRIAs. But, I think the research that I mentioned in 2015 identified particular issues around CRIAs. Some of those issues were to do with the expertise and the knowledge of those completing CRIAs, but some of them were also around the process and also the application of CRIAs, which I think we describe in our report in 2018 as patchy and inconsistent. I think that is a real problem. I think there also is a problem in transparency, in knowing which CRIAs have been completed and, also, at what stage in the CRIA process we are when we make enquiries.
Okay, that's an interesting point. So, there are three areas there: expertise, process and application. I appreciate that your report isn't even a year old yet, but have you had any feedback from the Welsh Government to say that they acknowledge that and giving you an indication of what they've done to change that, to remedy some of the weaknesses?
One of the positives is that the Welsh Government has set up a children's rights advisory group, and a number of us have had an opportunity to engage with officials who are developing CRIAs at an early process, prior to their being published. So, I think two recent positive examples have been the CRIA on the abolition of reasonable punishment, which was obviously presented to this committee fairly recently. That went into a great deal of detail in terms of international research evidence. You could tell that the person who had written it had engaged with the process, had engaged more widely and had really considered the whole CRIA process.
More recently, there's a consultation out now on home education as well. It's encouraging that Welsh Government are looking in more detail in terms of positive impacts on children's rights as well as negative impacts, and potential ways in which they can address those—ameliorate those—as part of the process. Because we very much see CRIA as being a working document, so there should be an opportunity then to reflect on the CRIA once the legislation or policy is out, and then possibly revisit that in a year's time. It should be a working document setting out, 'This is what our intention is and this is what expectation is, in terms of policy and legislation.' But, as we know, it doesn't always follow through in that way. So, there's an opportunity then to reflect on that and revisit the CRIA.
So, I think there are some good examples emerging. But, just to echo what Simon has said, one of the issues is that not all CRIAs are done at the right time, not as early as possible, when they should be done. They're not all being routinely made available publicly, although you can request them. In terms of the role of children and young people being involved in developing those CRIAs, that's a big question as well, in terms of how they're involved in the process. I think it's a really important accountability mechanism, the CRIA, because it's the main mechanism we have to see how the Government have taken the due regard duty into account. So, it's really important that they are done early on, they're done by people with expertise and who've had really good training internally of the Welsh Government, and then they are routinely made available for scrutiny and discussion.
It's good to hear that. So, we can expect, I would hope, a step change across departments now. Will you be involved in monitoring that? Is there another stage you could get involved in to see whether they've taken your advice, or is that for us then? It's a genuine question.
We're not currently involved in that piece of process. As I said, the research we did last year was on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. But, obviously, as those working in the area of policy, we take a keen interest in the standards of CRIAs, and we will have opportunities then to reflect those back to the central team in the Welsh Government.
I must admit, you are painting a very rosy picture of CRIAs that I certainly don't recognise as Chair of the committee. So, given your role as a monitoring group, are you aware, for example, that some CRIAs are actually being done after a policy has been introduced? So, we've got the retrospective CRIA going on. What's your comment on that? And also, you said that there are good examples emerging, but the Measure has been in place since 2011. Shouldn't we expect to have been much further on in this process by now?
Yes. I mean, there isn't a consistent process across the whole of Government for developing CRIAs and publishing CRIAs, so that's clearly evident in terms of others having to request CRIAs and having to then scrutinise and comment on them. So, there isn't a standard quality mark against all CRIAs across all departments, and that is a continuing concern for us. I guess what I'm saying is that we've had opportunity to reflect those back with Welsh Government to try and identify where there are some positive examples and where there are other examples that clearly were, as some people said in our study, an afterthought. It appeared that it was an afterthought and it was then too late—
We can have a look at what we gauged through the study, yes.
You're right that people have criticised the CRIA and the CRIA process. I think it's no surprise to Simon and Sean that I'm one of the critics. I think there's been a fundamental flaw, but I've also recognised that we needed to start somewhere, and that point of progress I welcomed and I think progress has continued to be made, but I think there is still some deficit.
One is that the 'A'—assessment—for me, should be 'analysis' rather than 'assessment', and it should be analysis of the effect on the lived experience, which we're only now starting to see emerge. I think you're right to say that the Measure has been in place for a long time. 'Should we have expected this sooner?' Me: 'Yes.' But I am a bit of an idealist, and I have to recognise progress and progress has been made. I would like to see an analysis, but I think where we've got to is possibly the limit to how far we can go with the current levels of understanding and knowledge, and I think there has to be quite a change in that level of knowledge and understanding within Government—so, officialdom—to enable a proper analysis process to move on.
I also think that we should be expecting to see other human rights instruments being included in Welsh domestic law, as the CRC has been. Now, if we have to do that, then we have to go through a similar process, but we can't expect officials to understand 54 articles of one instrument, 50 articles of another, 30 articles of a third one, and go through a process that looks at those. We need to actually better enable people to understand the lived experience and the benefit and therefore the measures of outcome, so boiling it down to what we need to see—some simpler questions that will better enable us to provide a thorough analysis of a lived experience.
I think there is a danger, or there is a risk that there will be a degree of scepticism about CRIAs arising from the fact that I think we all accept that the CRIA process and the application of CRIAs is less than ideal within the Welsh Government. I made some recommendations in the report in 2015 as to how to improve the process, and those recommendations were accepted at the time by the Welsh Government. We were expecting that they would be implemented. I can say that I think the only recommendation that has been implemented is a change in the template, and I think the CRIA template that is used is much improved, but because of where it now sits within the integrated impact assessment process, it may be lost or insufficient attention is paid to it.
Insofar as things like capacity, knowledge, experience, the stage at which the CRIA is carried out in the engagement of children, as far as I'm aware, there's been hardly any progress made on any of that. And I am concerned that when the Measure was first introduced and in the scheme, we had a Measure implementation team, and they gradually acquired a great deal of knowledge and experience in relation to children's rights and I got the distinct impression, as someone looking on from the outside, that they were very supportive of CRIA processes internally, and that was certainly the outcome or the finding from my 2015 research. I feel that there's been a dilution of that expertise, and I want to say that the children and families branch at the moment has a great deal of expertise, but in specific policy areas rather than in relation to children's rights, and I think that is a particular issue that needs to be addressed.
Can I ask you what reasons the Welsh Government gave you for the delay in the review of the rights scheme? It's six years old now. You've all said that there have been issues with it all along, so it's probably no surprise that it needed reviewing, but of course we're looking at two years further on from when we were expecting this review. What did they tell you about why that happened?
The review of the CRIA?
Of the scheme. Right, okay. Well, we're aware that there is a process and the process has been delayed, and the scheme was supposed to be out last year and isn't.
I think for us it was really important that they had missed their deadline, and it was really important for us to reflect back that we felt that it was important that they got it right in the first place before it was published, because I think the last thing we want to do is then providing comments on something that isn't fit for purpose. So, I think it's important that it is fit for purpose, and we wanted then to reflect that back to Welsh Government and say, 'Well, you've missed the target; let's get it right before it goes out there.' Because the children's rights scheme is so important. It is the manual for operation of the due regard duty across Government, and clearly the current children's rights scheme, as Simon has alluded to already, there have been changes within Welsh Government in the teams within the structure. It clearly does need a refresh. However, it is important to get that right, so that when Welsh Government is scrutinised, and more importantly, that when those are delivering CRIA they have a manual, they have a framework in which to operate from. Then they can go to the central team, the co-ordinating team within Welsh Government, to get additional support and additional expertise to be able to more effectively develop the CRIA.
I agree with you that it needs to be right. What I'm trying to get to is: were you given any reasons why they didn't get it right sooner? I hear what Mr Hoffman has said, but you've had to conclude that yourselves, I think, rather than being given an outright explanation for the delay by Government. I don't want to push this too hard because of time, but if you weren't told, you weren't told. That's all we need to know.
I think it's fair to say there may be an issue of capacity within the team in Welsh Government at the moment. Notwithstanding the expertise in a lot of policy areas in Welsh Government, we have to look at where that team fits in with Welsh Government—the role it has, the status it has and the capacity and resources it's been given, and the attention it's been given more broadly by all Ministers, so the importance of the scheme by all Ministers. So I think we have to ask those questions.
Does that mean, then, that our shared ambition for rolling out the due regard duty to other public bodies is not going to be happening anytime soon because there isn't capacity there to start driving that?
I think, in terms of rolling out to others, there is an importance to rolling it out to other public bodies. I think that, so far, that's been done very piecemeal, I think it's fair to say. We've had duties placed through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018. We're really keen that we have it on the face of the curriculum Bill when that comes through. I think they're largely being developed by separate teams, whoever's in charge of those teams, so the team within the children's branch will be then support—. So, for example, the curriculum Bill, we have a due regard duty that we hope will be on the face of the Bill, which will then promote human rights education across the whole curriculum in schools.
The central resource team is the co-ordinating team, which used to be called the Measure implementation team, and it should be having a key role in terms of working with the education team around the CRIA and around the contents of the Bill. I think that support is really important, and that's something that, in terms of what we expect from the scheme, we expect to see a really robust co-ordinating team with sufficient capacity and financial resources to be able to work across the whole of Government and provide our expertise. But we also understand that training is being refreshed, internal training in Government, and that's crucial. Yes, there is online training, but we need face-to-face training, more routine training, of all the people that are involved. Otherwise we're asking officials in other teams to develop CRIAs in a vacuum or with less knowledge than is sufficient.
Okay. Do you have anything to add to that? I've only got one more question and then I'm finished.
As Sean said, the roll-out, if you like, or the push down of due regard to other public bodies has been piecemeal. The risk there, of course, is a degree of inconsistency, then, within those public bodies as to how children are treated in policy at that level. I share the ambition that due regard should be applied to all public authorities in Wales, but in terms of the capacity to support that, developing guidance, perhaps, or legislation to effect that, I would share Sean's concerns that I cannot see the expertise and the capacity within Government to be able to enable that at this stage.
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 places a duty on individuals to give due regard, and the ALN Act places a duty on public bodies, and the discussion around those amendments, particularly around ALN, was that the imposition of the duty on individuals was seen as too onerous, which I disagree with quite significantly. And I think the duty should be on bodies, but it should also be on individuals—for individuals delivering the function of the Act. Why shouldn't a duty of due regard be on that individual?
Okay. Can you think of any examples where, if a due regard duty had existed, that, I don't know, either a local health board or a local authority might have acted differently?
Well, I think, in relation to housing, if there was a duty to have due regard to the UNCRC in relation to housing, for example, then local authorities might approach their discretion to not apply the intentionality provisions from a different perspective, because intentionality affects families with children and affects children. So, that might have been different, for example. But we can only speculate. I've certainly dealt with that issue in a feasibility report on the incorporation of the right to adequate housing, how the approach that local authorities might take to homelessness and, in particular, intentionality, might be different if there was due regard to the right to adequate housing, but also, of course, the right to adequate housing extends to children, so you can make an analogy with due regard to the UNCRC.
You could probably say that any element of services for the Traveller community probably suffers for not having a duty of due regard on individuals and public bodies.
Thank you, Chair. In your written evidence, you say that, despite the children's scheme setting out how children can make a complaint or challenge a decision the latest Welsh Government compliance report makes reference to no complaints having been made to date. Why is this? And have you been involved in shaping any changes to the forthcoming children’s scheme in this regard?
The research did, as you say, identify that there had been no complaints. We didn't press that in the research, because it wasn't within the scope of our research, but we did ask questions about it. Although it's not in our report, I think I can say with some confidence that, amongst the reasons that were given for a lack of uptake of the complaints procedure is that it's an adults' complaints procedure. It's a complaints procedure that the Welsh Government has in place for adults to complain about decisions and actions of the Welsh Government, which has then been bolted on to the scheme, if you like. So, it's not child-friendly, it's not accessible, and it's not the sort of mechanism that children necessarily would make use of. Those were the reasons given to us. We didn't push that any further and, obviously, it's not something that we were asked to examine in detail, so we didn't report on those findings in the report.
Can I just ask, then, what's the point of it if it's not child-friendly?
That's a good question. I think the idea, initially, was that there would be a complaints procedure that children could use that would be an alternative to the other form of challenging a failure to have due regard, for example, which would be the highly cumbersome and legalistic process of judicial review, which is inaccessible to most people, let alone children. So, the intention was a good one, I think, which was to have an informal procedure for children to raise their concerns that their rights were not being given due regard in policy making. It's just that the procedure that's been put into the scheme is not a procedure that is suitable to deal with complaints from children.
Okay. So, is that going to alter, is it going to change, is there any initiative there to—?
I think that's one of the key asks of the next scheme, that there's a robust complaints procedure in place for children and young people to make representations where they feel that there's been a violation of their rights, or their rights have been overlooked. We need proper redress mechanisms. It is set out in the current scheme but it's clearly not fit for purpose, because young people may not know about it and clearly not accessing it by the compliance report. It's also difficult for anyone to make a complaint against Welsh Government. If you do look on the website and try and look for the complaints procedure, you click on the button, it will take you to the home page currently. There is a form that's available but, as Simon said, it's certainly not child-friendly, and it doesn't make reference to the scheme and the Measure in particular. The current system is not fit for purpose, clearly, but if we are going to create a culture of children's human rights defenders, we need to be able to give them ways in which they can make representation on their own or with others on their behalf. So, that's something we will definitely be calling for in the next scheme.
I would urge that because, as an Assembly Member, a lot of adults that come to my office don't feel empowered to make complaints, so they come to us and I make complaints on their behalf. So, really, I think if we're going to talk about human rights and children's rights, a fundamental requirement of that is that they feel empowered to come forward and say, 'There's something wrong here', and if that system isn't in place, I think it makes a bit of a farce, really, of the whole framework. So, I would be urging, really, now, going forward, for that to happen.
Yes, very strong. And then, in your written evidence, you say:
'The extent to which activities to date have directly achieved their intended aim of increasing knowledge and understanding of the Convention is difficult to gauge, given that no comprehensive survey of the whole population has been carried out.'
You go on to say:
'Welsh Ministers may wish to consider producing a national strategy for promoting knowledge and understanding of the Convention.'
So, how important is this and should it be a priority, or are there any other actions that may have more impact?
I think section 5 of the Measure is vitally important, because if we are going to embed UNCRC as part of our culture in Wales, people need to know about it and people need to understand the convention. So, I think it's really important that we increase knowledge of the convention, but that's only part of the process. We need to be able to increase understanding and then move towards where we're empowering young people to advocate on their own behalf or with others to defend their rights.
The compliance report currently lists a number of initiatives, and a number of resources as well, around sector-specific training for professionals, which is obviously welcome. There's clearly a role for the third sector in supporting this, and the civil society organisations and the commissioners and others to promote and raise awareness of the UNCRC, supporting the national intention that we do raise awareness, outlined under section 5.
What we found in our study, when we engaged with children and young people, was that often children have to—. You know, it depends very much on which school they go to, whether they learn about the CRC. It often depends whether they're involved in a youth forum or a youth council. There isn't a universal approach across the whole of Wales to raise awareness and knowledge of the UNCRC. It goes back to my earlier point around the due regard duty against the curriculum—if we had—because the majority of children do go to school at some point in their lives. If they all get an element of human rights education as a foundation within that, we should see the figures in terms of when we're asking children and young people, 'Do you know about the convention? Do you understand the convention? Have you used the convention to defend your rights?'—those statistics should be increased. So, I think there are some real opportunities now that we would hope the Welsh Government will grasp, and the curriculum has to be one of them.
There are obviously other ones in terms of public awareness more generally around not just children's rights, but I think human rights more generally, because I think it's fair to say we are living in uncertain times currently, and I think, if we are going to move towards being a Government of human rights, or a Senedd of human rights, we need to begin to put some investment into bringing the public along with us in terms of that dialogue, to challenge some of the negativity there is around rights. And I think there are opportunities—for example, there's the thirtieth anniversary of the CRC this year. There are a number of events, and there's publicity being produced. We would hope that that would lead to something that won't be one-off material, and that we can utilise that and promote CRC.
And another example I like to give is the current children's Bill. Obviously, there's an amendment being put forward now to raise a public awareness campaign around the changes in the children's Bill. Well, clearly, organisations have used the CRC to put forward really strong arguments in the children's Bill. There's no reason why this public awareness campaign can't begin to use rights language as part of that as well. So, there are opportunities. I'm not convinced they're all going to be grasped, but there are opportunities to increase awareness and understanding amongst children and young people of their rights.
Thank you. You've made the point that all children at some stage may access education in a school setting. What about children who are home educated? How do they become aware of their rights?
Well, I think that it has to be part of a process. I was saying that having it on the face of the curriculum Bill is just one part. There needs to be more public awareness—a public awareness campaign around what does a human rights approach look like. That educates professionals, educates grandparents, everybody—the whole population. So, regardless of who's caring for children, and their circumstances, in terms of their education status, everyone has a broad understanding of the position and the priority given to human rights in Wales.
So, would you agree with me, because the feeling that I'm getting here, in taking this evidence, is that there's a tremendous amount of work yet to be done in this regard?
Knowledge and understanding has increased, and it has increased since the introduction of the Bill. Is is comprehensive? No, it's not. I did a small survey of a small number of our staff, just to gauge what the levels of opportunities and understanding were in their experiences of delivering services with families and children. Most of those listed themselves as being very aware. Some of them listed families and children as being slightly aware—mid sort of table—but they couldn't identify opportunities for their own learning, and they couldn't identify opportunities for their children and families' learning. Now, that's notwithstanding the fact that people like Children in Wales actually deliver quite a lot of opportunities. But they couldn't identify them, they couldn't point fingers and say, 'Yes, there's lots of opportunities', and nothing particularly for the children and young people.
The experiences, I think, around children, and children's understanding, depend largely, geographically, on where they're going to school. There is a lot of emphasis in some primary schools on the UNCRC, rights-respecting schools approaches and those sorts of things—really positive. It doesn't really extend into high schools a great deal. Home-educated children—it is actually about the environment of education, not necessarily what you teach either, which promotes a rights environment.
Okay. We need to move on now to talk about the Welsh Government's response to the concluding observations. I've got some questions from Rhianon Passmore.
Thank you. So, with regard to what you've already stated, there seems to be some systemic application issues in terms of capacity, as well as co-ordination, across ministerial departments. So, in that regard, the concluding observations, in terms of the recommendations, as far as we're concerned, to publish a national plan to set out the progress made in implementing these concluding observations—do you consider that worth while?
Absolutely. Absolutely worth while. A lot of work goes in, in the planning stages before the state party inquiry in Geneva. We as a monitoring group prepare a report and submit a report, and work with young people around reports, to inform the committee's recommendation. It's massive—there are 150 recommendations from the CRC, and it's important that those concluding observations do take effect when they're brought back to the UK, and then they're brought back to Wales, around devolved competencies. At the moment, we don't have a formal detailed response to those concluding observations for 2016, in terms of identifying what are the specific actions of Welsh Government against those concluding observations within their competencies. And that is a continuous concern.
Why not? Have they given you any reason they're not providing a response?
I haven't had a reason, no. I think it's fair to say they issued a statement soon after the concluding observations were released, and then an anniversary statement in the second year and third year, and selectively looked at the areas which they were making good progress on, which is encouraging. There were some real positives from the concluding observations to Wales, but, obviously, there are still issues in Wales that we know about, in terms of child poverty rates, emotional well-being of children and young people, and they raised issues around the structures for engaging children and young people.
So, to you as a monitoring group—sorry to interrupt you—do you feel that you have the influence necessary? Obviously, great strides have been made in terms of where we started from, but, obviously, there are a myriad different basket of issues there that you've highlighted and referenced. So, how important, then, is the formal mechanism for Welsh Government to be able to address some of these points, to bring them all together?
It's absolutely important, because there isn't a formal mechanism currently to track progress.
Well, I think it would benefit the Government, certainly, when they come to influence the next state party report. So the Welsh Government will produce their own report then, to feed into the state party report. So if there's a tracking mechanism, which looks at the concluding observations, saying, 'Right, we're delivering this against that. We're taking forward, we're addressing this concluding observation', clearly, that systematic approach will enable them, in terms of the monitoring process, to make sure they are addressing the concluding observations, so that when the officials on behalf of the Ministers go to Geneva, they're fully informed in terms of what they've done against those concluding observations from 2016.
So how are you, as a monitoring group—to interrupt you again—influencing and pushing your argument forward to Government? Because it seems to make sense. What's not happening as far as you're concerned?
Well, we need a national action plan on the concluding observations. We said in our consultation that one was done by the last Government—a 'getting it right' plan—which set out the activities and the priorities they were taking place against. We haven't had that under this Government. We think that's urgently required. It's interesting the Scottish Government's required to monitor and also report against the progress they're making against the concluding observations. So, I see no reason why the Welsh Government shouldn't be doing similar.
We have called for that as part of our civil society work, heading towards the last round in Geneva, yes. We did mention that. And I think also we're really interested in the approach that the Equality and Human Rights Commission are taking in terms of adopting a formal mechanism to track progress across all human rights mechanisms. We're really interested in that, because there are many recommendations from the CRC committee, which are also referenced in other reports, like the convention against torture, the CEDAW recommendations, and on the persons with disabilities conventions. So, I think having one would help the Welsh Government track all the recommendations, and I think having a plan, or at least a strategy, to say, 'This is what we're doing against the concluding observations'—. Because I think it's very difficult to see how the concluding observations are being used on a day-to-day basis—they're not really generally being referenced in any policy or any debate. I don't come across reference to the concluding observations in my day-to-day work.
UN committees don't have a great deal of power. They have lots of power to make concluding observations, and then it's what you do about it. And the process is really how embarrassed are you going to be when you haven't done anything the next time. Up until very recently, the UK Government has not been embarrassed by inactivity. A plan that is delivered locally is something that people can be held to account against. It's their commitment to deliver on that observation and they can be held accountable against that.
Okay, and, from your perspective, you are very clear in terms of what you've asked for.
And I think you should really involve the children and young people as well, to be able to see what actions are being taken, because a number of reports went in from Welsh children and young people to inform those concluding observations, so I think it's a matter of courtesy that we do have a plan and a strategy against those concluding observations to demonstrate to young people directly that the Government are taking children's rights seriously.
Can I just quickly add that whe concluding observations—obviously because they come from the Committee on the Rights of the Child—are very useful, but they're drafted in such a way that they apply generally to the UK? There are some specific points that can be taken in relation to Wales, so they're very abstracted in many ways, which makes thinking about how they might be implemented in Wales quite difficult. I think the EHRC treaty tracker is going to be a really useful device there, because it does focus on what concluding observations are within the scope of devolution.
But I also think it's important to go back to the process. I think the process of reporting is as important as the concluding observations, and the Welsh Government prepared a very comprehensive report on children's rights in Wales as part of the lead-up to the examination of the UK. That was lost, of course, as it would be in the UK state party report, but, actually, it's the concluding observations in combination with that report that I think should drive any national plan for children and children's rights in Wales.
Well, it was a comprehensive report and there was a lot that could be taken from that, which does not then appear in the concluding observations. And, actually, Sean at Children in Wales, and for the monitoring group, has done quite a lot of work on tracking that through from the initial Welsh Government report into the state party report into the concluding observations.
Just to be clear, this committee has had a clear focus on the concluding observations in our response to the Stage 1 of the removal of the defence of reasonable chastisement Bill, because that was a clear call, wasn't it, from the UN?
Moving on to the optional protocol on communication, what is your view in terms of the potential benefit to children in Wales with regard to giving children a right to make a complaint directly to the UN, should we ratify that?
For me, the optional protocol, if we had access to it, would be of great benefit, but, of course, we're in the hands of the UK Government as far as that's concerned. I think the principle that the optional protocol represents—that children should be able to make complaints and should have a redress mechanism, although it's a rather weak redress mechanism at international level—is an important one. I think, for me, the focus would be not what the UK Government controls, but what we can control within Wales.
I put in a separate submission to the committee for this hearing, which largely covered what's in the submission from the UNCRC monitoring group, but there was one thing in addition within that, which talked about how Wales had taken a particular approach to incorporation of the UNCRC in 2011, which was suitable at the time in relation to where we were in devolution, and devolution, I think, and Wales, in human rights terms, have come a long way since then. And now, the Welsh Government and the National Assembly have powers around observing and implementing human rights generally.
I think, referencing work in Scotland, where there's a determination to incorporate the convention, and a particular approach has been taken to incorporation, which focuses on, from civil society at least, due regard, but also acting in compliance with a compliance duty as an aspect of incorporation, is something that we should look to now in Wales. We're at a point in Wales where we could actually give children the opportunity to seek redress via our own formal mechanisms, rather than look to an optional protocol, which personally I don't think is ever going to be an option for children in the UK. And we might want to think in Wales whether it is now time to try and move the Measure beyond due regard and think about how it can be strengthened by adding in a compliance duty, possibly along the lines that have been modelled by civil society in Scotland.
Okay, thank you. I think that's probably a really good point at which to stop, because that's certainly given us something to think about for our recommendations, because we've covered a lot of ground in an hour. So, can I thank you all for attending this morning and for answering our questions?
As you know, you'll be sent a transcript to check for accuracy. But, thank you very much again for your attendance; it's very much appreciated. Thank you.
Okay, we'll move on, then, to our second evidence session, which is around the issues around health and children's rights. I'm very pleased to welcome Dr Phillip Connor, consultant in paediatric haematology, directorate research and development lead, the Noah's Ark Children's Hospital for Wales; Rhian Croke, who is children's human rights adviser at Human Rights Wales; and Rhian Thomas Turner, who is senior operations manager at the Children's Hospital for Wales. Thank you all for attending. We've got a lot of ground to cover, so, if it's okay, we'll go straight into questions from Rhianon Passmore.
Thank you, Chair. Welcome. In regard to, and if you can be brief, if that's what you wish—. Can you extrapolate and explain for us the difference between child and adult health generally, and, in turn, how they might need service delivery in a different fashion?
Okay, so if I take that, the spectrum of disease is different. Going through a life history, it starts off with babies being premature—adults don't get that—and they've got organs that don't work. With that, the side-effects of that, the sequelae of that, are different to what you see in adult medicine. Then, obviously, there's a group where their organs have only just been developed and forming, and then there's a group of children that don't have normal organs. So, that's a group that has significant health needs, particularly in the first year of life. Then, obviously, because they are new people, they've got—. Their genes are the first—. They've inherited them from their mum and dad and they get genetic diseases that become apparent quite early. That's significantly different. So, for example, for argument's sake, most of the disorders of the kidneys, the renal tract malformations, how your kidneys handle things, are genetic. So, there's that background of significantly different biology that's different to an adult that has been formed, has been living for a long period of time, and then stuff usually happens to them. There are elements of genetic diseases that strike in adult age ranges. They're unusual—things like Huntington's chorea, et cetera, but other things happen earlier.
So, then there are acquired things that happen to children. Things like the cancers that children get are significantly different. So, cancer is a stem cell disorder. In a growing child, the active stem cells are different to an adult. So, adults get carcinomas—lung cancer, breast cancer, prostatic cancer. Children don't get them. They do get leukaemias, and different subsets of leukaemias to adults. And they get things like neuroblastoma, hepatoblastoma—things that are really rare that you've probably not heard of—and they're different types of cancers and they need different treatments.
So, significant clinical presentation in regard to the differences between adults and children. Thank you for that. So, in regard to your concern, I think, that's been presented around the access to good quality clinical research not being embedded effectively across health portfolios, could you extrapolate from your different perspectives around that and about a potential view that there's a lack of focus on paediatric research in Wales? I'd be interested to know more. I don't know who wants to go first.
Okay, I'll take that one. Nice to meet you all today. I’ll just give you a bit of an overarching perspective. So, the Measure and the application of the due regard duty may have helped raise the profile and visibility of children’s rights in policy development in Wales, but we concur with the other institutions submitting evidence earlier that this is both patchy an inconsistent, and only pertains to certain areas of policy.
In the area of health policy, and more specifically health research funding and good clinical research for children, we are concerned that its application has not been strong, and we consider that there needs to be further scrutiny in this area to discover why due regard may not may not be effectively being applied. We believe that the Measure has not been used as such an affective device to influence the culture of health research funding and delivery, which is having a consequence for children and their human rights not being as visible as for adults. So, we believe that the children’s scheme needs to be better implemented. There also needs to be training for senior health civil servants who are responsible for supporting the Minister in the exercise of their functions to ensure that the duty of due regard is pervasive across health policy making. We are concerned that the other institutions have noted in their evidence submissions that children’s rights training is no longer compulsory for Welsh Government officials, and others have noted that Ministers themselves may not be receiving training implementing the duty.
We are aware that the children’s rights impact assessment has not been rigorously applied to decisions regarding the delivery of funding for health research. And this concurs with the Hoffman and the Moore studies that CRIA is not being uniformly applied across all Welsh Government departments. My colleagues will refer in more detail to the Welsh Government activity-based funding model in due course, however, after several attempts over period of a year, we have asked Welsh Government to apply a CRIA to the review of the activity-based funding model. Perhaps because civil servants know we are giving evidence today, we recently received an e-mail to say that they will now apply CRIA to this process. We are waiting to see the evidence—
Sorry to interrupt you, and I'll come pack the paediatric clinical research issue in a second, because, obviously, this is of great importance. So, with regard to what you mentioned that they’re not applying a CRIA to, can you just explain—?
So, it’s called the activity-based funding model, which they’re going to go into in more detail shortly. There is a review of it, but what we’re saying is that we’ve asked, on numerous occasions, for a CRIA.
In March last year we realised that the activity-based funding model is going to change, and we've had concerns about the model for a long time, in terms of the way funding is paid to health boards, and we knew that this was changing. And they're looking to more of a value-based healthcare research model.
Okay. So, we knew that this was changing. I spoke to one of the civil servants who's leading on it, and said, 'Have you considered the Measure with regard to what you're doing?' They've e-mailed back and said, 'We will do this', but this was back in September, and they've already done a considerable amount of work on this. And I think one of our concerns, really, is they haven’t been considering this from the start of the process, and that we’ll end up at a point where we’re stuck with something that may or may not work for children.
We are, because, as we’ll address later on, we do feel that we’re in a poverty cycle in terms of paediatric research funding in Wales since 2015, since all of the changes came in. So, we are concerned that if we don’t catch it now, in terms of these changes, we’re going to end up stuck in this cycle, that both Phil and Rhian will allude to, for the next five or 10 years.
So, you’ve almost my final question. So, with regard to access to medicines, how significant are your concerns around that, in terms of access?
How detailed to you want the answer? The issue is that most children are actually well. So, if you have a system of reimbursing the NHS for doing research that involves 'per head' in the study, there are not thousands of children that are life-threateningly unwell, fortunately. A big study for us would be 200. A big study for adults would 10,000. So, if you have a recruitment base—people that come in—peads always get hammered on that. We never get money—in terms of recruiting and paying for research nurses to actually then do the studies. So, though we only recruit 200, it turns out, when you do paediatric studies, they’re really detailed, they’re really terribly complicated. So, for example, to treat someone with leukaemia—take childhood leukaemia—it takes between two to three years, with complicated steps in the process and multiple randomisations around what you're going to do. The same goes for the other tumours. But you'd get the same reimbursement for doing, not wanting to be pejorative, a blood pressure thing. You get someone in, do the blood pressure—'Oh, it's high, have a tablet, do that for six months, see you later.' So—
So, the solution is—. Hopefully, we've thought this through in terms of the impact assessment, actually—the resource needed for the particular trials would, in fact, be appropriate for what is actually being undertaken, instead of, I suspect, a one hat fits all. So, there is a way of, potentially, invoicing around our activities or what the actual trial—'invoicing' isn't the right word. But you have the protocol and you can actually see what's going to happen over the next two or three years, and you can then plan in terms of what that would involve in terms of resource, whereas when one size fits all, you've recruited into a particular study—great—'Here you go, here's the money for it.' We always miss out in paediatrics—we're not going to get win, we're not going to anywhere with that. It becomes very hard to do the studies.
Just to give you an idea, it's £1,000 for an interventional study. So, you get paid a one-off payment of £1,000 to recruit and to do all of the follow-up in these children. Our children can come back for a considerable amount of time. If they're neonates, they're followed up.
So, the numbers are small. Only about 20 children get leukaemia in Wales a year. They're not big numbers. Thousands of adults get cancer. If you do a breast cancer study, you can recruit thousands of women into it quite easily in Wales, but in terms of us trying to do children's cancer studies, it's quite hard. So, in terms of just keeping staff numbers going, because they're children, you can't use adult-trained research nurses—they have to be paediatrically trained research nurses. So, then, how do you keep that expertise in the department and how do you keep it ticking over? That's where we get discriminated on, we feel.
Thank you. Good morning. From your experiences, to what extent are children's rights taken into account in the decision-making process within health boards and trusts. For example, does the children's rights charter adopted by some health boards make any difference to the strategic decisions they are making?
Okay. I've recently carried out a detailed case study of one health board. However, the results are not yet published, so I can't share that with you at the moment, but, hopefully, I'll be able to share it with you before the end of the year. I do think that research does need to be undertaken across all health boards and trusts in Wales to determine to what extent children's rights are actually being taken into account in decision-making processes.
However, we can report from our own experience collectively of working across the sector that it is pleasing to know that there's been an increase in the number of children's rights charters and youth advisory groups across a number of health boards and trusts. However, there still does need to be further evidence of senior-level commitments. According to research undertaken by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 2019, three out of the seven health boards do not have a board-level lead or a champion for children's services, and this certainly reduces opportunities for children to have their voice heard and their human rights respected in organisational decision making.
From our own collective experience, we are aware that there do need to be better corporate-wide strategies that demonstrate commitment to children's human rights; mandatory children's rights training for all health professionals and managers; performance indicators on children's rights; proofing of budgets, policies and guidelines for compliance with children's human rights; children being better included in clinical decision making and the monitoring and evaluation of service delivery; better complaints systems for children; co-ordination across services generally; and the consistent monitoring of health authorities' commitment to children's human rights.
To touch on the second part of your question, it is very positive that there are children's rights charters, but what we need to see is that they are better embedded and better understood. So, it's all very well having this kind of pledge and having the charters stuck across hospitals and various services, but what needs to happen is that officials really need to know how to translate that into practice, and so do the health professionals as well. There's a lack of understanding there at the moment, but we need to move on from that, and it's very positive that we are seeing this incremental step, where people and health boards are starting to take the UNCRC into account in decision making.
Thank you. Can you expand on your evidence that Welsh Government should urgently develop a time-bound action plan and dedicate funding to the maximum extent of available resources to the development of paediatric research, medicine development and the academic paediatric workforce in Wales? And an obvious question, I guess: why hasn't this been done already?
I'll respond to this one. Though we've kind of acknowledged there is a strong commitment to human rights in Wales, looking at the current situation with regard to paediatric research funding in Wales, there's probably a suggestion that the accountability framework hasn't been followed. We are in very uncertain times, and I think what we haven't really touched upon is the importance of both European and global networks of paediatric research. One country can never develop medicines for children—it has to be global. We're part of a European network—the European regulation is what has actually stimulated paediatric research. Prior to the European regulation coming through, there was a lot more off-licence and off-label use of paediatric medicines. The 10-year report into the regulation has shown that that has decreased the amount of off-label and off-licence use. There has been an increase in medicines developed for children. It's not perfect, it's still being driven by the needs of the adult market. So, there are issues, but within Wales, we're contributing to that kind of discrimination against children, I suppose, in that we're not actually offering them, even at this level, the opportunities that adults are offered to be part of clinical trials.
Phil and I have both been heavily involved in the opening of the children's research unit, which I think Lynne has been to see. It opened in 2017 and we can say that it has increased. We've got a lot more children involved, and from across south Wales as well—it's not just Cardiff children; thetr are children from Newport, from other health boards—so there is definitely an increase. However, we need some kind of sustained funding. Cardiff and Vale are the only health board at the moment that's actually invested in this, and we do need sustainable funding in order to continue this and to grow.
We know that Welsh Government is committed to prudent healthcare—no more, no less, no harm. We can't actually say to children that we can offer that as a service; we don't have the robust basis for the treatments that we're giving them in the same way as adults do. Ninety per cent of the drugs in neonates used are off-label or off-licence. You have to to manipulate—. There's an excellent video that was developed for GRiP—Global Research in Paediatrics—a few years ago that will show you the level of manipulation that takes place when you're trying to give a drug to a neonate. You know, slicing a suppository in half and hoping for the best. So, I think it's about committing, in Wales, to developing, to helping these global networks to develop these critical age-appropriate medicines. And that needs funding, that needs the ABF to be right, and it means infrastructure funding to be right as well.
We recently submitted an application for infrastructure funding. We weren't successful. We've received minimal feedback and we do not know if the UNCRC was considered.
To Welsh Government. We've got some evidence here, if you'd like that.
And if I could just add to that—I think we would just like the committee's help in terms of the scrutiny of the decision making around that infrastructure fund allocation. Was due regard taken into consideration? Because we have tried to ask the question, but we're still waiting for answers.
Thank you. That would be very interesting for us to have that as a concrete example, really. Yes.
Thank you. And we were just thinking of working with other public bodies because we are taking children from other health boards in terms of our trials as well—so, working across the board. We ask, really, for a commitment to funding this action plan. We did put together a comprehensive plan that we think might work, and we're happy to share that with you confidentially as well.
And just to add to this as well, in terms of just to be aware of the overarching picture that child health research funding has now decreased year on year since 2012. So, we're just concerned that children are being neglected
And in terms of clinical academia as well, there's been a huge decrease in the investment in clinical academics. We've had the first appointment in about 13 years at Cardiff University, but that was a real fight to get that post. And without those relationships, it's quite difficult. We could be leading. Rhian, Phil and I are involved in a global project at the moment and we've been accepted on the fact that we are coming at this from a rights-based approach. We would like to ask children to come up with a charter on involvement in clinical research, but we can't do that without the support and without the funding, really.
Yes, and the Harvard institution are just very interested in terms of the angle, in terms of the convention on the rights of the child. So, they're really interested in us sharing our learning from Wales.
Thank you. You say that,
'Children’s human rights should never be an afterthought but a primary consideration and central to any decision making and actions taken regarding research and development and access to medicines for children in Wales.'
I suppose you've touched on this already, really, but I'm going to ask the question again so that we get it firmly on record. To what extent are children’s rights being taken into account when decisions are made?
So, to put meat on the bones, we've talked about things a lot. So, for example, one of the issues we've had is, in Wales, because we're stuck in this poverty cycle of research, we don't have an early cancer medicines unit. So, there are regulatory requirements around having, for children, a unit that can deliver first-time-in-children medicines. So, we've had a number of children for whom conventional therapy has not worked and they've relapsed. At that point, conventional therapy is futile and there's not really any point—they will then die. So, with those children, drugs that are developed off the back of adult medicines are actually then being trialled on children. We can't do that in Wales. So, we've had to try and send them out to other centres that are these early cancer medicines centres, and that's at around the time when the child has relapsed and they're not well, the family has to deal with this and off they have to go at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives, really.
The issue has been that being in these trials actually requires a lot of input. You don't just turn up on the day, half an hour and then you're out. It takes days of various tests, having it, drug levels being taken at set time points after you have the drug, side-effects being looked for, all sorts of things, lots of investigations, and realistically you need to live near the institution where you're having it for a period of time, for a few weeks when you're on these things, and possibly longer. Hopefully, if they're successful, for a lot longer because then you can carry on. So, the issue is that we don't have it in Wales, we have to turn people out, but the funding—. When they're on a trial, the drugs are paid for so the Welsh NHS doesn't have to pay for that. But if you have to live in west London for two months next to Great Ormond Street, that costs a lot of money, that is not cheap, and so they can't afford it and it's prohibitive. So, they've not been able to do that.
About three years ago, we had a run of them and we had three, and they tried to get on these early phase trials and, actually, the families just couldn't afford it, so they didn't get on them. And then subsequent to that, people have attempted it and hit the same barrier. So, actually, we've had about 10 children in the subsequent two or three years who were then given palliative intent chemotherapy, who've then subsequently died. But they didn't have the opportunity or the choice to get enrolled in these studies around those periods of time.
So, we're doing things about it. There's a charity called LATCH, which is the Welsh children's cancer charity; we're trying to set up an ECMC centre and we're working with Cardiff University. Cardiff University has got an adult ECMC centre, a virtual centre around Velindre and Cardiff, and we're trying to join that as a paediatric centre—
Off the back of charitable funding.
Off the back of charitable funding. You know, this is not something that's being paid for by anyone else. So, it's basically charity. It's LATCH deciding—they can see what the children go through and what the families go through and actually want to do something about it.
And, is this different to adults? Sorry to ask the question.
Yes. In adult centres, and again, a contrary example, Velindre does adult cancer studies, Cardiff does adult cancer studies, Swansea does adult cancer studies, so in terms of adult cancers, there are multiple different sites in south Wales that I'm aware of that actually enrol and give novel agents to adults.
Okay, thank you. We've got some more questions now on the way resources are allocated, and whether children's rights are taken into account, from Siân Gwenllian.
Iawn. Rydych chi'n dadlau, felly, dwi'n credu, y bore yma y dylai Llywodraeth Cymru adolygu ei chyllideb iechyd a'i pholisïau er mwyn cydymffurfio a rhoi sylw dyledus i egwyddorion a darpariaethau'r Mesur Hawliau Plant a Phobl Ifanc (Cymru) drwy gynnal asesiad effaith ar hawliau plant a chyhoeddi'r canfyddiadau. Dwi'n credu eich bod chi'n dadlau o wneud hynny, felly, byddai disgwyl i arian lifo yn fwy neilltuol tuag at wasanaethau iechyd plant. Dyna'r ddadl rydych chi'n rhoi gerbron, dwi'n credu. Oes yna enghreifftiau yn rhyngwladol lle mae hyn wedi digwydd yn llwyddiannus?
Fine. You are arguing, therefore, I believe, this morning that the Welsh Government should review its health budget and its health policies in order to comply with giving due regard to the principles and provisions of the Rights of Children and Young People (Wales) Measure by putting in place a child rights impact assessment and publishing the findings. I believe that you're arguing that, by doing that, there would be an expectation that funding would flow more specifically towards children's health services. That's the argument that you're putting forward, I believe. Are there examples internationally where this has taken place successfully?
I'm happy to take that question. I just want to reinforce first of all that a detailed CRIA of the health budget would demonstrate how it's having a positive or a negative impact on children's human rights in health and other interrelated human rights. I also want to reinforce, again on the record, that it's a specific requirement of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. It's outlined in general comment no. 5 on the general measures of implementation; general comment no. 14 on best interests; it's outlined in general comment no. 15 on the right to health; and most recently in general comment no. 19 on public budgeting for the realisation of children's rights.
So, as the other institutions giving evidence today have all expressed, it is inadequate that budgetary decisions are not being consistently assessed for compliance with the UNCRC and it's a failure of the children's scheme. So I do really feel that—well, not a failure. It should be happening as a part of the children's scheme, sorry, to correct that statement.
As per our written evidence, we're concerned that there's still a lack of visibility of children in the Welsh Government health and research budget. We would urge much more detailed analysis on specific areas of spend, in particular in relation to health research. Although requested from the Health and Care Research Wales support centre, the figure for what is currently spent by Welsh Government on paediatric research is not forthcoming, so the lack of transparency in public expenditure on paediatric research means that it's currently not possible to tell, without more detailed analysis, whether the Welsh Government is using sufficient levels of expenditure to fulfil children's rights to the highest attainable standard of health.
Under article 4 of the convention on the rights of the child, Ministers have a clear obligation to demonstrate whether they're fulfilling children's rights to health to the maximum extent of available resources. We believe that that transparent evidence on spending on children in relation to health research is an essential tool in both meeting this obligation and evidencing how planned spending and indeed spending cuts are impacting on the outcomes for children and young people in the enjoyment of their rights.
The health research budget and indeed all Welsh Government budgets that impact on children should be consistently assessed for their impact on children and young people and their human rights. It allows the impact to be predicted, monitored and, if necessary, avoided or mitigated, or indeed strengthened. We are concerned at how consistently this is happening under the new strategic impact assessment process. At the moment, we do not know what the proportion of spending is on children in the health research budget as compared to the adult population, and if children are being discriminated against or not in health budget decision making.
So, I want to use another example to elucidate this a little bit, okay? So, in the 2014 inquiry into CAMHS by your own committee, Welsh Government statistics referenced within the report show that £82.75 was spent per head on general mental illness as compared to only £13.94 per head on child and adolescent mental health. So when health policy is tracked over time, there is a trend of underspending on the child population as compared to the adult population. So we'd like a detailed proof of the health research budget, but we believe it would be good practice to proof the overall health budget to demonstrate the proportion of expenditure on children, and only with this information can we hope to understand whether the Minister for Health and Social Services is indeed fulfilling his commitments under the Measure. And if the Minister did become aware from his analysis that that there was, for example, a significant underspend on children, we would hope that the findings of the assessment would result in changes in policy and future spending decisions.
With regard to what other countries are doing, in research into how far other countries are implementing a children's human rights approach to health services, there is limited evidence to suggest that, as yet, other countries are successfully using children's rights impact assessments to inform their budgets in health settings, right at that level. However, there is evidence of other countries monitoring and proofing national health budgets. And until recently, we were regarded as exemplars in Wales in terms of our children's budgeting, and I think we need to go back to that and make sure it is out there, accessible and transparent to the public and to bodies that are trying to work out what exactly is going on. I can share with you the link to Unicef's 2007 global study on what other countries are doing, but that's more to do with national budgeting.
I was just going to ask: how would it look if the spending decisions became transparent in the health sector, from a children's services point of view? How would that actually look?
Phil, do you want to take that on, or would you prefer to—?
In the context of research here, which is what we're talking about, I don't know—. In terms of intervention studies, so doing things to children, in terms of 'Here's something, an intervention, that we want to do', Cardiff's the only centre doing intervention studies in Wales. There's no other centre at all doing intervention studies. Now, to some extent, Cardiff takes everyone with renal, paediatric intensive care, very premature babies—it has to take them from everywhere else anyway, and they get centralised. So people in other postcodes are having access to research, but in terms of expenditure within their own health boards on intervention studies, I'd say it's very low. I don't think there are any studies.
It's not being tracked. It's very difficult to access the evidence. So, when we're asking for it, it's just very difficult. I suppose that's what we mean by a lack of transparency.
So, the opposite of that is to have clear pathways within budgets that show a breakdown.
Yes, exactly. And demonstrate it. Yes, definitely. And I think, actually, if you look to the global study, they give fantastic methodological examples of how that can be done. So it'd be good.
No, totally. And it is broken down in there, and we had done it historically here, to some degree, in a slightly rudimentary way, in Wales as well. But, perhaps, post this meeting, we can share further evidence in that area.
Basically it's a 'yes' or a 'no', as we're up against the time. You said that children's budgeting has gone backwards, so can you just, really, really quickly explain why we've gone backwards on that?
I think that we did have some really good work happening, but just to narrow down my concern, I'm just concerned about what is happening now with regard to the strategic assessment—
—process and whether—. Because I think it just seems to be more difficult to access this information in terms of the proportion of expenditure on children across budgets.
So it's that transparency. And I don't know where it's happening. I would love the assistance of this committee to find out further what is actually happening in this area, because it's making it more difficult for us, as external organisations, to hold public bodies to account, and that's a very important part of this whole process, I hope you do accept.
Just moving on from that, of course, apart from two pieces of legislation, public bodies don't have the same due regard responsibility as Government and this Assembly. You say that you want that pushed down, and I agree with you, but what will that look like, bearing in mind it doesn't seem to be transparent or visible at Government level? Is this going to make things worse or better in terms of transparency?
I suppose, yes, we're seeing the flaws, aren't we, at Government level. I think what needs to happen right across the board is it happens and it needs to be happening better in terms of officials' and civil servants' understanding of how to implement the due regard duty. There does need to be more capacity and resource actually dedicated to that. So we're obviously seeing a bit of shrinking backwards of what's been going on, and I think that the other people who gave evidence earlier suggested that what is happening is that there's no longer mandatory training at Welsh Government level in terms of actually delivering due regard. So, then we've got our own case study. So, we've got officials who are suddenly saying, 'Oh my god, we have to do a CRIA on the activity-based funding model. Oh, right, okay.' They didn't actually say that, but the way their faces looked was, 'Well, what is that? How do we do it? Oh my gosh—we've got to go back now and ask for advice'. So, really, it should be at the fingertips of senior civil servants' knowledge base in terms of, 'Well, what does due regard mean and how do I apply it?' So, we have—. I was co-author of the research that informed the children's commissioner's 'The Right Way: A Children’s Rights Approach in Wales'. It's an excellent piece of work in terms of helping public bodies actually think about how should they translate a children's human rights approach into practice. So, that can be utilised, but we do need this legal requirement that is entrenched right across public bodies, because there needs to be consistency.
At the moment, you're seeing a lack of consistency. You've got Welsh Government and then you've got public bodies. Let's have it right across the board and actually resource—provide the resources for people to actually understand what is a children's human rights approach, understand the convention—'What does it mean to me to actually make children more visible in my health budget decision making? How can I make sure that children are being listened to and heard better in my clinical decision-making processes?'—you know, all these different things. There need to be corporate-wide strategies in terms of how to implement it, and there needs to be senior level buy-in. Without the legal requirement, we will not get senior level buy-in, so that is why we need the public sector duty in terms of public bodies across Wales.
Sorry. [Laughter.] I feel very strongly about it.
No, no. And I agree. But, just on the back of that, every local authority and health board, which, I suppose, are the two most relevant ones for this conversation, will have a different idea about how to embed a due-regard duty at different points in any decision-making process. I'm thinking of budgeting particularly. Is that the sort of guidance you would expect to come from Welsh Government about the evidence that needs to be provided to show that you have complied with the due-regard duty?
I think there definitely needs to be evidence and support. So, in my research into a children's human rights approach to health services, for instance, you've got the UN health rapporteur who's saying, 'Okay, hang on a minute everybody, people need to understand these enforceable human rights', but what we're struggling with is that they get the general comments. You know what the general comments are in terms of the UN committee's jurisprudence. A health professional doesn't know how to suddenly jump from that legalistic provision to applying it to their area of work. So, what we need is capacity, resource and support and direction from Welsh Government on how to do this. You've already had experience over the last seven years of doing it—the Welsh Government doing it in terms of a model. It's working to some degree. Let's build on that. Let's take that approach and take it out, and transplant it with public bodies. This is—what's the word—cutting-edge stuff globally. It is fantastic. We are in a nation that wants to put the human rights of children first, as much as possible, and I'm really excited about that. So, let's seize this opportunity now and move forward with it.
'Show us your workings'? Yes, definitely, and I also would like you to, if possible, give consideration to Scotland's Children Bill. I'm not sure if they touched on it in the earlier meeting as well, in terms of the fact that there is a draft Bill for direct incorporation now on the table in Scotland. People talk of this race to the top in terms of, 'Scotland's doing well, Wales is doing well—let's look to what they're doing in terms of their model of incorporation; we could take a step further forward now'. I like the balanced approach that they have there. They've got the due-regard model, but they're balancing it with a compliance duty, which is similar to the Human Rights Act 1998. And I've got the explanatory notes and the draft Bill that we can share with you post that meeting for further discussion on that as well.
Okay, that would be very—. Well, I think that would be helpful, wouldn't it? Can I ask my last question now?
If there was one thing that this committee could do for you, or the Welsh Government could do for you in getting this right, what would it be? You've got a minute.
Phil, would you like to take that? [Laughter.]
So, I think we'd like to ensure that children—
—that children with significant health needs are not really neglected and that, actually, the Measure is used in a way to help allocate resource to them in an appropriate way.
Okay. Well, can I thank you very much for your attendance? That was an absolutely fascinating session and really useful for the committee to have such palpable examples of how the Measure should be making a difference to children, but isn't. So, thank you very much for sharing that with us; it was very powerful and really, really helpful. You will be sent a transcript to check for accuracy following the meeting, but thank you again, all of you, for attending.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:10 ac 11:21.
The meeting adjourned between 11:10 and 11:21.
Okay. Can I welcome Members back then for our third evidence session this morning, which is with the Equality and Human Rights Commission? I'd like to welcome Hannah Wharf, who is the principal of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Melissa Wood, who is a senior associate at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Thank you both for attending. If it's okay, we'll go straight into questions. I've got some questions from Rhianon Passmore.
Thank you. Welcome. So, as Wales has been groundbreaking and led the way, in your opinion—according to some of your written evidence anyway—do you feel that the Measure has made any difference in regard to the way children's rights are considered by policy makers, and how do you feel that's been implemented across Government?
First of all, thank you for inviting us to give evidence today. As you may well know, we commissioned a piece of research into the impact of the children's Measure, and that was carried out by the Wales Observatory on the Human Rights of Children and Young People, and Children in Wales, and that happened between January and March 2018. So, much of our evidence is based on that research—to do with your question. So, in that research, they found that the Measure had had a positive influence on the way policy is undertaken by the Welsh Government. They found more attention being given to the convention and policy processes, and the fact that the Measure has established a new and important framework for policy on children in Wales.
However, they did find that there was a difference in opinion about the impact on the quality of that policy decision making. So, for example, to give a good example of where it has had an impact is on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and there is a case study within our research that showed how active consideration of the due-regard duty was made. In terms of children's rights impact assessments—CRIAs—many stakeholders expressed concerns about the quality of consideration given to children's rights and policy development generally across the Welsh Government. For example, some comments made were that policy development is often patchy and inconsistent, and that the Measure is an innovation in human rights and children's rights implementation, but the impact of this law has been very uneven so far. There was also a comment that CRIA practice is not consistent, which undermines the impact of the due-regard duty. So, another example of some of the comments that people made about that was that CRIAs have become more common, although nowhere near universal, since the Measure came into force. However, the variable quality of the CRIAs and their variable application leaves a lot to be desired.
So, in your opinion, in regard to the barriers that have led to the Measure not having that same influence across Welsh Government department decision making, what are those barriers—you've sort of highlighted them—and how can they be overcome?
So, I think it's important to note that this Measure was a stepping stone towards incorporation, and in no way counts as full incorporation in terms of legal enforceability of child rights in Wales. So, you can see roots springing up of where policy has changed, and the prioritisation of children's rights has happened. But you can also see a lack of legal teeth in the Measure, and inconsistency of CRIAs. And the thing that I think needs to be strengthened—we think it needs to strengthened and reviewed—is the actual mechanism of child rights incorporation. We can celebrate the success of the stepping stones to getting to where we've got to in terms of incorporation through the child rights Measure, but that's one step on a journey for full incorporation. So, I think it's important to look at the barriers in the actual legal framework as well.
So, could you articulate again—we've rehearsed some of this earlier, but can you articulate those barriers in terms of successfully implementing?
Patchy and inconsistent CRIA use in the Welsh Government. There's been no judicial review, and a lack of legal redress. That's due, in some ways, to the actual make-up of the legislation itself, and a lack of legal knowledge, and a lack of public debate and accountability—that framework's there, but it's not being used as an accountability framework.
And there's also opportunity for policy advocacy within the National Assembly. So there are lots of examples within the research where the due regard is not being used by AMs to hold other AMs to account. So, it's not that—. That knowledge is not throughout the Assembly either, or across Welsh Government.
Thank you. In regard to how that can be overcome, though, you would feel that duty to be applied. How can we overcome some of those issues?
We would recommend that there's consideration of further incorporation of UN human rights treaties, whether that be the convention on the rights of the child, full incorporation in and of itself, or—. The position that we're taking is a further incorporation of all UN human rights treaties, so that there's legal enforceability. There's evidence that this has a greater impact, both in terms of court enforceability and legal redress, and also in terms of policy making and outcomes for children. There's an example in Norway. We commissioned research as the commission, and partnered with Liverpool University. So, there's an example in Norway, where they have incorporated the rights of the child into their human rights Act, and that has shown impact into legislation being amended, case law, the supreme court applying the child rights convention, and positive legal obligations under domestic law. So, there's a strengthening of it, and—
Okay. So that precedent has already been set, in terms of what Norway are doing, and obviously we are on that journey in terms of how we now go to deepen and strengthen where we're at with that. So, from your perspective then, are there any concrete examples here of how the Measure has influenced Welsh Government, in terms of how it allocates its resources? And also, additionally, are there any examples where you feel that this has not happened? We're looking more for specifics here in Wales.
I think within the research, again, there were examples of where good CRIAs were carried out. So, for the revised child poverty strategy 2015, and the active travel action plan for Wales, both showed examples. However, within the budget—let me find the spot—there was evidence that a CRIA hadn't been carried out, and I think we put that into our—
Sure. Let me find this.
Yes. We know that the Government doesn't CRIA the budget, because we've been calling for it repeatedly, and keep being told 'no', so—.
It's part of the integrated impact assessment. So CRIA does form and fall under that, but it's hard to be able to see that at analysis level when all the paperwork's—. Because we find the same issue with the quality impact assessments, as well. I think it's across—
Yes. The committee has been concerned that there's been insufficient focus on children's rights. Can I just ask you, Melissa, before we move on—? You said something about concerns about AMs not holding people to account on children's rights. Can you just tell us a bit more about that, and whether there's anything more you think we should be doing?
So, as part of the research, they looked at where—. I'll read it for you:
'took a limited examination of how Assembly Members have embraced this opportunity covering 40 plenary sessions in 2016. The First Minister and other Ministers were in regular attendance at these sessions. Issues raised included health and well-being, mental health services, looked-after children, child poverty...We found that, while Assembly Members frequently urge Ministers to take specific action in support of 'children's interests' or on occasion 'children's rights', Assembly Members made very little reference to the due regard duty to underpin or amplify these contributions.'
So, it's using the due regard to progress advocacy in—.
I'll come back to the CRIAs, but I just want to ask you first of all about the children's rights scheme and the delay in the refresh on this. I can see that you said, in the 2018 report, that you've not really had time or been given time to contribute to the policy process in Wales. From the monitoring committee that we met earlier, they said that they weren't given a reason by Welsh Government why there'd been a delay in this. Are you any the wiser why there's been a delay?
I wish we could answer your question, but no.
How concerning is it? Obviously, the monitoring committee said that they thought it was more important to get it right rather than stick to timetables, but timetables have a purpose and that's to keep people thinking about things. How disappointed are you that they haven't got this thing through yet?
I think I'd echo it's important to get it right and to go through the processes of engagement with children and young people and relevant stakeholders to ensure that the right things are in that scheme.
What would you expect to see in there? [Inaudible.]—what you said about enforceability.
I think the scheme in and of itself is probably not the space to be able to put enforceability requirements within, but I think that there is an interesting space within the children's scheme to be able to look at the vision and the aims and the outcomes that we would want to see in terms of children, as a result of the implementation of the children's rights Measure.
Yes, but to articulate that in a visionary, ambitious way that drives forward change to improve children's outcomes.
And would you expect that vision to include any horizon scanning for making sure that other public bodies become the subject of the due regard? I appreciate that would need to be legislative, but—.
I think that would be part of what we're saying around enhancing the status and incorporation of child rights full stop, and that this Measure in and of itself is a stepping stone towards that. So, I think that would be part of a bigger discussion and exploration of how we can legally enforce child rights in a full incorporation model, plus how we can then make that applicable to public bodies in the future.
There's an argument, isn't there, that even if Welsh Government gets it absolutely right with their vision and their application of due regard, it's other bodies that are very often picking up the work—the delivery of the policy? So, I can see there's an obvious reason for this, but it's okay.
Can I just bring you back to the CRIAs for a second? You said it's patchy. We had a couple of examples from the monitoring group to say where they've seen improvement in CRIAs. We threw back a couple of examples where there hadn't been CRIAs. How do you think CRIAs could be improved? What do you think is the core issue with the quality of them?
As the Equality and Human Rights Commission, our focus, I have to admit, is on how to improve equality impact assessments, and I think there's probably learning to be had from—
—yes, from both, and I think we need to shift away from this tick-box process exercise of impact assessments in and of themselves to more changing the culture of policy making, which some of the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 do encourage in terms of integration with other legislation, involvement and long-term thinking. So, it's about that shift to different ways of policy making in and of itself, so it's not just about that bit of paper that you tick through. So, it's starting at the beginning and having a full engagement process all the way through.
And it's also ensuring that CRIA is applied to all policies, including the Welsh Government budget, and that all CRIAs are published as well.
Culture change—that will, in itself, produce guidance that those who have to implement decisions will be able to follow in a way that's not tick-box.
It's also important to note that, potentially, the socioeconomic duty implementation of the Welsh Government, which they're committed to doing by 1 April next year, has an opportunity to also—. Our policy position as a commission is asking the Welsh Government to look at outcomes—the actual outcomes—of inequality that are linked to socioeconomic disadvantage. So, there's something about being really focused, through the CRIA or the equality impact assessment, or the socioeconomic impact assessment, on what outcomes we want to change for people in Wales and then putting the lens of those outcomes into our decision making, so that decisions are made with outcomes at the forefront of our thinking.
In your written evidence, you say there is a lack of evidence that the Measure has directly improved outcomes for children and young people in Wales, and you also go on to say that there's a lack of clarity on what outcomes the Welsh Government want to improve for children and young people as a result of the Measure. To what extent would you agree that these appear to be significant concerns?
I suppose we would say that the child rights Measure, in and of itself, to change policy outcomes and that policy framework to prioritise policy development in Wales, is to be celebrated, and that's great, but we ourselves, as a commission, find it difficult to understand what outcomes for children we're aiming to achieve as a nation and, therefore, what impact that Measure can have on outcomes. But the Measure wasn't designed to do that, so it's a disconnect, in and of itself.
Okay, thank you. You say that the Welsh Government could specify strategic outcomes for children and young people that are based on evidence from robust and relevant sources, and, in turn, that these should inform policy decisions made by Welsh Government Ministers and be monitored to provide evidence of progress. Why do you think the Welsh Government does not already use this approach?
That is a very good question. I'm not sure I can answer that. I think there are—[Inaudible.]—within other documents that apply to children, so that is important to note.
Finally from me, in your written evidence you say that despite the children's scheme setting out how children can make a complaint or challenge a decision, the latest Welsh Government compliance report makes reference to no complaints having been made to date. Why is this? Have you been involved in shaping any changes to the forthcoming children's scheme in this regard?
So, the fact that there is a lack of complaints from—
So, the fact that there are no complaints from children and young people could be a result of different things. We feel there's a lack of knowledge on what the child rights Measure is. I know the children's commissioner has suggested a separate leaflet and a separate process of complaints for children to be able to—. But, again, in and of itself, the Measure is about things that are quite removed from children. So, it's about, as we know, policy development and Welsh Ministers. There's a disconnect from practical application for children, and that's—
Earlier witnesses said that it's not child-friendly. Would you agree?
According to other research, it's saying that children just don't have the information available to them to use the complaints mechanism.
Would you agree with the comment that's been made that it's not child-friendly?
I don't think your average child or family would be able to take on—
It's more adult focused, we were told. It's an adult complaining system—it's not child-friendly for children to feel that they could use it. Would you agree with that?
I don't feel able to make that decision and answer that question at the moment, but the research, as you say, says that.
So, it's not something that you've looked at, then—how easy the complaints process is for children to use.
No, but, again, just to reiterate, the point is about policy development, and I guess that world is still very dominated by adults, such as ourselves, talking about policy and making those decisions. So, a result of the child rights Measure in some cases and of the CRIA has been the engagement of children and young people in those processes in and of themselves. So, I suppose there is a child-friendly element to that policy making.
Okay, Janet? Okay, we've got some questions now on the Welsh Government’s response to the concluding observations, from Rhianon Passmore.
Thank you. Before I move on to those particular questions, you mentioned that you can’t comment on those particular issues—
Sorry, I've done it wrong. I'm sorry, it was meant to be Siân. I'm very sorry.
Yes, I was thinking that. As I've started, Chair, can I just finish the question?
So, in that regard, who's job would it be to make this child-friendly?
Sorry, could you repeat the question?
So, in regard to where we were and the last questioning from Janet Finch-Saunders, whose job is it to make this child-friendly? Or do you think it's just an unattainable, esoteric vision for the future, in regard to what we were just talking about, of being child-friendly and the ability to interpret the ability to complain, as there are no complaints in regard to the essence of the Measure?
Well, it’s Welsh Government legislation, so I would presume there’s a responsibility on the Welsh Government to ensure that that legislation is delivered in the way that they see fit, and to ensure that other bodies, if needed, have resource to be able to deliver that if that’s what they want. So, just to reiterate, the children’s commissioner has made suggestions—and we’ll talk, I’m sure, about that later—in terms of what they see as a role of being able to do that. Did you have anything?
In what way?
Well, ensuring that if children's rights—. Part of that right, I would have thought, is the right to complain if something’s not right. If it's not, and if there’s been a weakness identified, do you not feel you have a role?
The monitoring group told us that they thought that when the new scheme is out, that should address the issue of a child-friendly complaints process. Is that something that you agree with?
Yes, we will be involved. Melissa sits on that body, and we are involved—
As an observer.
—as an observer, and we will involve ourselves with processes wherever relevant. I suppose what we are most interested in is the further incorporation of human rights in and of itself, and the full incorporation with legal enforceability.
Rydych chi wedi sôn am yr angen i gael mecanwaith cenedlaethol ar gyfer gweithredu, adrodd a mynd ar drywydd argymhellion y Cenhedloedd Unedig. Fyddai cael fframwaith cenedlaethol yn dechrau cael gwared ar y disconnect yma, fel rydych chi’n ei ddisgrifio fo, rhwng beth sydd yn y Mesur a beth sy’n digwydd? A sut fyddai mecanwaith cenedlaethol yn gweithio’n ymarferol?
You've mentioned the need to have a national mechanism to implement, report on and follow up on the recommendations of the UN. Would having a national framework get rid of this disconnect, as you've described it, between what's in the Measure and what is happening? And how would a national mechanism operate on a practical level?
What we, as a commission as whole, are pushing for is for the UK and Welsh Governments to implement this sort of mechanism, because what we see at the moment is there is no formal mechanism within the Government—within the UK or Welsh Governments—to our knowledge, where measures are progressed on the implementation of recommendations. Just seeing how the reporting system happens in Welsh Government, it sits with one person who then speaks to other departments and gets their updated report to then send to the UK. So, what a formal mechanism would do would be to put human rights into the heart of Government, cross-governmentally. It would involve, ideally, civil society in that as well, as well as the judiciary, or, you know, different sections of society to make that a reality, I suppose. We have lots of examples of these kinds of mechanisms from across the world, which I can forward on; I've got a whole sheet of examples of those.
Scotland, as they move towards further incorporation of all the UN treaties, have an advisory group that they have set up, and within that, they've also pushed for a mechanism within Scottish Government too.
Do you think that the lack of mechanism is adding to this disconnect?
I don't know if I can comment on whether it's a disconnect with the Measure itself, but I do think there is a disconnect with human rights as a whole, and in respect of the UN obligations within Welsh Government as a whole, because I don't think there is something that enables them to know where they are with progressing those. And on another note, we have recently launched our treaty tracker. So, it's a human rights tracker, which is an online tool that enables parliamentarians, civil society, people with an interest in human rights, to search on an online system where we are in terms of the UK Government's and the Welsh Government's progress with recommendations. At the moment, it just tells you what recommendations there are. So, it's a great tool to be able to easily see what recommendations have been made to the UK and Welsh Governments at the moment. And as we develop it, it will then go on to track progress. But obviously that's us monitoring, and it's not something that sits within Government.
And it's a gift to Assembly Members to enhance accountability on progress against UN recommendations because we have unpicked where devolved responsibility is.
Okay. And what would it look like in a practical sense, this mechanism?
Our treaty tracker or—?
A body—a Government body of cross-department people.
Or a spreadsheet that tells you what the recommendation is and what progress has been made against it, and what the response of the—. And this may exist— and we have asked—but we have not been able to see evidence of this yet. Is that right?
Yes. They should be permanent, and they should include a cross-section of relevant departments. So, it's just putting human rights into the heart of Government action and across, rather than sitting in an equalities team on the edge.
And it's also important to note that that's across human rights treaties, not just children's rights as well.
And it's also important to note that these calls for implementation have come from various treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child. So, in terms of our track record on progressing and promoting human rights, it's something that we should be considering to keep us up there.
It will bring human rights into the heart of Government rather than something that sits on the sideline.
So, you hope then, in that way, that it would then have a greater impact on the day-to-day lives of people.
It is. Our shadow reports, of which we will be producing another one on children's rights next year, which the commission produces in its national human rights institution role, highlights what the key inequalities are for children in terms of their rights and access to rights in Wales. We obviously then produce that into a shadow report. Civil society organisations do too, and then that goes to, as we all know, the UN, and then that comes back. So, I think that if we can focus on delivering upon those recommendations that come from the UN, and making sure that they're delivered upon and implemented in Wales, then, yes, hopefully, that would in turn result in improved outcomes for children and young people because that's the focus. But it is a big process, and it only works if you complete it at the end, as well—if you implement those recommendations at the end.
Diolch. Ac yn olaf, beth ydy eich barn am y buddion posibl i blant yng Nghymru yn sgil y trydydd protocol dewisol ar gyfathrebu, sy’n rhoi’r hawl i blant wneud cwyn yn uniongyrchol i’r Cenhedloedd Unedig? Ac a ddylai Llywodraeth Cymru fod yn galw ar y Deyrnas Unedig i gadarnhau hyn?
Thank you. And finally, what is your view on the potential benefits to children in Wales of the third optional protocol on communication that gives children the right to make a complaint directly to the UN? And should the Welsh Government be calling for the UK to ratify it?
We can provide information on this, but we don't have a position on this.
We would say full ratification of all treaties by the UN state is of utmost importance. We know that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women optional protocol to make a direct complaint to the UN has been beneficial and has resulted in further access to rights when they've been exhausted in the state, not necessarily the UK, but across the world. So, we believe that, yes, the UK state should ratify the optional protocol.
Thank you very much. Are there any other questions from Members? No. Okay, well, can I thank you both very much for your attendance? We will send you a transcript to check for accuracy following the meeting, but thank you, again, for giving us your time today.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, everyone.
Okay, moving on, then, to our fourth and final evidence session of the morning. I'm very pleased to welcome Sally Holland, Children's Commissioner for Wales, and Rachel Thomas, head of policy and public affairs, office of the Children's Commissioner for Wales. Thank you both for coming, and thank you for the paper you provided in advance. We'll go straight into questions, if that's okay.
Your written evidence refers to some frustration at the lack of join-up across Government on children's issues. What needs to happen if we're going to see the Measure fully embedded in all Government departments?
The 2018 compliance report on the Measure talks about the fact that we're at the stage now of moving away from implementation of the Measure because it's now embedded, and I really don't feel that I agree with that assessment in the compliance report. I think we need to do something more fundamental still, actually, to make sure that this Measure becomes a reality for children's rights across Government.
The fundamental thing that we still need to do is win hearts and minds, I think, in understanding why it's important. It still feels to me like some of the things that Government has to do in relation to the Measure, people do them because they feel they have to do them, which means that they sometimes feel quite half-hearted, quite late and not very in-depth. So, I really want people to understand that by doing some of the basics like learning about children's rights, by involving children and by doing the analysis that's needed under children's rights impact assessments—I'm sure we'll come back to those, I won't go into them in any depth now—they're really about the fundamentals for children. It's not a sort of light, fluffy thing, children's rights, or a nice-to-have, it is actually fundamentally about their freedoms, about their equality, about their dignity, about fair treatment and access to services. And if that analysis is done early on in policies and draft legislation that relate to children—and, of course, it nearly all does—in real depth, then actually we would see the quality coming through in those drafts. So, I'm worried about the quality of the children's rights impact assessments, but I'm more worried about the quality of some of the guidance and the legislation coming through, and I think that would be much better if that real understanding was there.
So, I think some fundamentals that we still need to embed are training and awareness right across Government. I'm still concerned about levels of awareness and I'm not convinced that training is being properly rolled out, the quality of children's rights impact assessments and the involvement of children and young people and accountability to them. So, it's obviously not just about having a couple of focus groups, as I know people in this committee are well aware; it's much more fundamentally about how we involve children and young people's views and children and young people themselves, and how we're accountable back to them, as to what the Government is intending to do.
In terms of the other part of your question about work across Government, I suppose another thing that we've observed over the last few years is that, sometimes, or very often, policies are developed very much in one corner of Government or another. Some of that's very understandable for practical reasons—people have their portfolios and they work in them—but I think, again, that doing that analysis early on would alert people to where, actually, the issue in question crosses lots of areas of children's lives. So, some examples I would give would be home education, mental health in schools—they're two examples where we've really seen, over the last couple of years, things have got off to a false start really, or to a slow start, sometimes because it's been dealt with in one corner of Government and people haven't seen the importance of other portfolios being part of that. And I do think that early analysis and understanding, and thinking about the breadth of children's rights, would have really helped that. And the other really obvious one is the budget, and of course, I've given evidence here to this committee before on that, but it's another obvious place where we really need Government to be seeing children's rights across the whole of Government.
Okay. Thank you. And my next question was on the budget actually, because your written evidence refers to a meeting with the finance Minister on 23 September. You'll know that this committee has very much shared your concerns about insufficient focus on children in the budget-setting process. Are you able to give us any feedback on that meeting, and whether it did give you the assurances you were looking for?
Well, I heard in that meeting, and indeed in my subsequent meeting with the First Minister, that there is a different approach this year, that there's peer review and challenge going on across the Cabinet, and that includes on some children's issues. So, that, I suppose, felt like a bit of a step forward. Some of the conversation was more about which areas particularly require more investment. Inevitably, we talked about that.
I also took the opportunity to take along an example of what I thought was very good practice, which is the New Zealand example, which I've shared with the committee as well, of how they have looked at an aspect of children's rights, but a very important one, one that I'm very keen that we pay more attention to here in Wales, and that is child poverty. They have actually done the kind of analysis we'd be looking for from the budget, which is really looking at all aspects of the budget and any impact they may have on children's poverty.
Now, of course, I had the conversation with both of those Ministers that they have different powers to the Welsh Government, but that doesn't mean that they can't, within Wales, do this kind of analysis, and it was received well. I've shared it with three or four Minister now, I think; I bring it to every meeting, and say, 'There's an example of the kind of thing that I think would satisfy the requirements of the UN committee, as well as what we've been looking for in Wales.' So, I delivered that; I asked them to consider publishing this kind of analysis, and left that with them.
Just one thing to add on that peer reviewing of the budget-setting processes, it was mentioned to us that one Minister, for example, will be peer reviewing on child poverty. What wasn't mentioned was whether anyone is specifically championing children's rights across the budget, so we're not sure if that is being championed by any Minister in particular.
Okay. Thank you. We've got some questions now on the delivery mechanisms of the Measure from Janet.
Good morning. What has caused the delay in consulting on a revised children's scheme? For example, is it because of a lack of capacity within the Welsh Government or that insufficient priority is given to implementing the Measure?
It's hard for me to answer that. I know you're going to have the Minister in in a couple of weeks to answer that. We've certainly been actively involved in scrutinising the progress of the development of the scheme. It was due to be revised by December last year, as I'm sure you're aware, and we have seen a couple of drafts since then, as have other members of the children's rights advisory group. We've asked for those drafts to be improved. So, in some ways, there will be aspects of the delay that will be down to us and other members of the group, because we think the scheme still sits as it is, and officials and Ministers have to comply with the scheme as it is, so it's not gone, but we think that there really is an opportunity now to get it better, and we didn't want to see something that felt like it was just shuffling around the words of it. Sorry, that's probably not very fair, but it didn't feel like it was taking a big enough step forward.
We really saw it as a revision to move practice on and be ambitious, and unlike many other aspects where Government might be quite tied in to primary legislation, or whatever, and there's a limit to how far they can take things, there's actually lots of scope for them under the Measure to really be ambitious with the delivery of the Measure through this scheme. We just felt it wasn't significantly different enough, the draft we've seen so far. For example, it didn't even take up the conclusions that the Government's own compliance report had said they were going to take forward when they revise the scheme. So, we thought, 'Well, really, it's not ready.' So, we have asked for it to be revised, and we're hoping to see another version of it very soon.
We have asked them whether they would consider working it through our 'The Right Way' framework, which I know this committee's familiar with, but through our five principles, because we think it would work really well, and we did provide a draft, at least an outline draft, showing how we thought it would work on that. We have offered several times to work to support the development, because we want it to be right. So, that's our story of delays; I don't know if you wanted to add anything, Rachel.
The only thing that I would flag up, just in terms of the delay from when the compliance report was published, was that the compliance report should have been tabled for a Plenary debate, and, for some reason, never was. We did ask about it at the time, but it never was, so that's potentially a missed scrutiny opportunity to bring that forward.
Yes, just on that, is it a matter that there have been different Ministers looking at the children's field, or what is the problem?
Well, I've been commissioner for four and a half years, and I've had four different Ministers that I've been reporting to in that time. So, obviously, for each one—I suppose this happens in Government, doesn't it—they've had to get a quick grasp of their portfolio, but I haven't felt that any of the Ministers that I've had as my link Minister haven't understood the importance of children's rights. But, inevitably, there was a change of Minister round about the time it was due, so I presume you'll be asking her about that.
Okay, just before we move on, can I just ask—? One of the issues the committee has flagged, and I know you've flagged, is the lack of a children's sub-committee in Welsh Government. Is that something that you think might help with these join-up issues?
I do. Under the scheme, there is a group for senior officials to meet, and I have been invited to that—twice, I think—during my time as commissioner to share ideas with them. But I do think that we have clear examples—and I've given some already this morning—of where the opportunity to join up has been missed. I'd be very keen to see a sub-committee of the Cabinet meeting, as we had early on in Assembly days, to talk about children. I did raise it with the First Minister at my first meeting with him, and he did take it away to think about. We haven't seen any progress on that, but he did say that they would be doing some more themed scrutiny, sometimes involving outside speakers, in Cabinet meetings, and that children's rights or child poverty could be part of that, but I'm afraid I don't have any information about whether that's been taken forward.
Thank you. In your written evidence, you say
'the practice of completing Child Rights Impact Assessments towards the end of the development phase, to reflect decisions already taken, is not uncommon and means that in reality rights are being fitted around the decisions rather than being used to drive policy development and intent.'
How significant a barrier is this in terms of implementing the policy intentions behind the Measure?
As I said at the beginning, I really think it remains an issue with children's rights impact assessments. When they're done well, we really see the impact on the legislation, and some examples we give in our evidence are the minimum pricing of alcohol and the removal of the reasonable punishment legislation, and we see that impact coming through. So, what we see is delayed availability of CRIAs. We always ask for them when we respond to consultations. We did 29 consultations responses between 2018 and 2019, in that financial year, and we asked every time when they were Government ones. I think 19 of them were Government ones—
Seventeen. We ask every time for the CRIA. They’re very often not being done, and, of course, we’re only responding to the ones that have got a child element in them, or they’re coming to us late. So, the consultation on the curriculum, for example—the CRIA came to us at the very end of the consultation period, so we weren’t able to include our critical analysis of that in the consultation. And sometimes they’re not available at all. I’ve got a list of them all here—all the ones we’ve done in the last year—and we keep this list in our office: 'Was there a CRIA? Yes or no?' They're mainly a 'no'. What’s our analysis of them? So, they’re not there early enough, and sometimes we feel that they’ve been put together on request.
We feel there’s not enough depth in them. So, not enough consideration, particularly of any potentially negative impacts on certain groups of children. So, children are often treated en masse, and, obviously, a key aspect of children’s rights analysis is we tend to think about which groups of children may lose out or may gain from a Measure. I think there’s a culture of not wanting to talk about potential negatives in legislation, but, obviously, it’s really important for everybody’s scrutiny and for them to get it right, because, of course, when you start to recognise that one group may have more difficulty accessing a new service or something that comes in with new piece of legislation, then you can put in the mitigation to make sure that they do.
One example that I could draw out would be the draft Welsh in education strategic plans, where, in the analysis, it said that there could be a negative impact on children with additional learning needs because of our lack of provision through the medium of Welsh often for children with additional learning needs. But the conclusion at the end of the CRIA is that this will have no negative impact on children’s rights. So, really, that analysis should have said, ‘This is how we’re going to mitigate it. There is this potential, but these are the measures that we’re going to take.' And then the conclusion would have been a more honest one, I suppose.
And for the ones where that then hasn't been published, we didn’t have the opportunity to raise those points and have that scrutiny. And I suppose it’s important to note that Welsh Government are complying with their current scheme by not publishing these policy CRIAs at that stage, because they’re not required to under the current scheme. So, I think, really, the problem is what the scheme requires, because that’s not driving the early completion of them. So, very often, we will ask, and we’ll be told words to the effect of, ‘We’re not actually required to do this yet, or to publish it—we only have to publish at Bill stage.’ So, that’s a real barrier to these being done. And I think, to pick up the point about often not wanting to air some of the negatives that are being worked through—I think those are important to see and how they are being mitigated. But very often, we’re told that the CRIA will be completed and shared after the consultation, once the consultation responses have been taken into account. So, you can then provide your best-looking CRIA that has already worked through all the arguments that other people have made, rather than developing a policy in the first place that’s done that thinking and with children.
And I do want to emphasis this is not, for me, about jumping through hoops, which I think is often how impact assessments are portrayed to me by people in Government—‘Oh, we’ve got so many of these, and there are far too many of them.’ But for me, it’s not about that, it’s about getting it right.
Another example would be the Health and Social Care (Quality and Engagement) (Wales) Bill, which is under scrutiny at the moment. There was a CRIA, as is required under the scheme for draft legislation, but in the one that brings it together—the integrated impact assessment—it just says that any impact to human rights would be consequential, it wouldn’t be fundamental. And yet, when we looked at the Bill, we saw that it wasn’t clear in the Bill how the citizen’s voice element would include children—whether it would at all. It wasn’t clear about the advocacy offer—what that looked like in relation to children exactly, and how. The way it had been worded—we could see, and we’ve responded in this way—how some children might miss out. Now, a really good analysis early on would mean that they would have worked through that earlier, which, actually, would save time, because it would stop people like me and committees asking and asking about these questions and getting them to amend it. So, it really is about the quality of getting our legislation and policies right for me; it’s not about saying, ‘Because of legislation, you must jump through these hoops.’
Ydy hwn yn fater, felly, rydych chi yn ei drafod wrth ofyn i'r Llywodraeth ddiwygio eu cynllun hawliau plant? Ydych chi'n disgwyl iddyn nhw, yn y cynllun diwygiedig, roi'r angen i wneud yr asesiadau yma yn gynt yn y broses? Ydy hwn yn rhywbeth y gallwn ni fel pwyllgor fod yn dylanwadu arno fo drwy ofyn i hwn fod yn rhan o'r cynllun newydd?
Is this an area, therefore, that you are discussing by asking the Government to revise their children's rights schemes? Are you expecting them, in this revised scheme, to put the need to make these assessments earlier in the process? Is this something that we as a committee could influence by asking for this to be part of the new scheme?
Yes, I think there's a great opportunity with the new scheme to get that right and to get that analysis in early. Again, as I say, it's not, for me, about imposing extra bureaucracy; it is about getting it right early, and revisiting it later on, because, of course, measures get—whether it's guidance or legislation, it gets amended, doesn't it, as it goes through the scrutiny of committees and others? So, it's important they revisit it. We see very few examples of analysis being revisited either.
Ydy hwn yn un o'r materion pwysig rydych chi wedi bod yn pwyso arnyn nhw i newid yn y cynllun hawliau plant?
Is this one of the important issues that you've been pressing upon them to change in the children's rights scheme?
Yes, that is one of the things we've been asking for, isn't it?
Yes, and it's something that the compliance report said would be happening by picking up the 2015 report that Simon Hoffman spoke about earlier, and some of the UNICEF recommendations. So, they have committed to doing that, but it hasn't been brought forward.
You say that the current children's rights scheme contains information for children and young people to
'challenge the Minister when they feel that Ministers have not complied with the due regard duty when making decisions that affect their lives'.
You also say that your
'feedback on the revisions to the Scheme has highlighted this as an area that needs development to be more suitable and accessible to children'
but that this has not been acted on so far. How confident are you that the revised scheme will meet your expectations in this regard?
It's not in the drafts we've seen yet, but I think this inquiry gives a great opportunity for you to give recommendations, obviously, and I'm sure you will, as to what should be in the revised scheme, so we could see it as a blessing that it was delayed—the revisions—because you've got a great opportunity now to say what should be in. I think that a clearer indication to children—I can't emphasise enough our fifth principle in 'The Right Way', accountability, is important, and children need mechanisms for accountability.
I would like to point out that part of the Measure is that children can seek accountability through approaching me as well, as commissioner, and I do take that very seriously. I do a mixture of things when children approach me with concerns about anything national, or local, of course. I let them know how they can themselves lobby and campaign, at what level to do it and how to do it, but if they're dissatisfied with the responses that they've had, then I will take action to make sure their voices are heard in Government.
So, two examples I could give you would be some young people in Neath Port Talbot—their youth forum, indeed—were unhappy with the correspondence they'd had with Government about their concerns on the minority ethnic achievement grant and other grant schemes, which, again, the committee's paid a lot of attention to. They were unhappy about the ministerial response they had, so I went and met them, listened to their concerns, and was able to feed the concerns into, in fact, my evidence to this committee. A second example would be the fact that I was able to facilitate climate change protesters to meet the relevant Minister to directly lobby her on the changes they felt were needed. So, I do take that very seriously, but, obviously, that's just one aspect, and that's a lower level aspect of children seeking challenge, and their access to judicial review is more complex and, so far, has proved insurmountable, in fact.
Rydych chi'n sôn am blant a phobl ifanc yn herio'r Gweinidog, neu yn herio Llywodraeth bod un o'u hawliau nhw ddim wedi cael ei weithredu, ond ydych chi'n teimlo bod gan blant a phobl ifanc ddigon o wybodaeth beth bynnag er mwyn gwneud yr herio? Ydyn nhw'n gwybod beth ydy eu hawliau nhw? Mi gawson ni sesiwn efo plant—plant o Lanfairfechan oedd gennym ni—ac roedd o'n amlwg bod ganddyn nhw ryw fath o deimlad ohono fo, ond doedd o ddim yn glir i mi eu bod nhw'n deall y cysylltiad rhwng y gweithgaredd roedden nhw'n ymwneud â fo a sut oedd hwnna'n ffitio i mewn i'w hawliau nhw. Roedd y ddau beth fath ag ychydig bach ar wahân. Felly, ydy ein pobl ifanc ni'n gwybod digon am eu hawliau er mwyn gallu gwneud yr herio yma? Rydych chi'n sôn am un enghraifft yn fanna; mae'n debyg mae'n digwydd mewn pocedi bach, ond yn gyffredinol—.
You talk about children and young people challenging the Minister, or challenging the Government, that perhaps one of their rights has not been implemented, but do you feel that children and young people have enough information, in any case, in order to challenge? Do they know what their rights are? We had a session with children from Llanfairfechan and it was evident that they had some sort of sense of it, but it wasn't clear to me that they understood the connection between what activity they were taking part in and how that would then fit into their rights. The two things seemed to be slightly separate. So, do our young people know enough about their rights in order to be able to challenge in this way? You mention one example there; it's likely to be happening in small pockets, but generally—.
Obviously, that's the duty of the Government, and of myself as commissioner: to make sure that children understand their rights and how they apply to their everyday lives, including their citizenship right to lobby Government and local government as well. As you'll be aware, I myself do lots and lots of work to raise awareness. I've come hot-foot this morning from one of my super-ambassador events in Caerphilly, with 60 schools, where we're training children on rights. And we talked—. We played games at the start, but we talked about the law and about how I have my Assembly bag, and a nine-year-old today had a wig and—what do you call those things?
A gavel. I talked about how it's my job to challenge—to listen to their voices and then to challenge Government and to change the law. I work really hard and we show even young children—we've just developed foundation phase lessons, which I think we're going to share with committee on 20 November, to make sure children at a very young age learn about their rights. But I have emphasised—. I still meet children all the time, especially older young people, who say, 'I've never learned about these before now'. In the session we did to inform this inquiry, with my advisory panel, I was with a group of young people in north Wales and I was quite surprised, really—because we tend to get young campaigners join my panel—how many of them had said, 'It was only when I saw the opportunity that I looked more into what rights meant, and then I thought that's really important, so I applied to be on your panel'. So, I found that a bit disappointing.
But we are seeing more and more take-up of children's rights. But I have emphasised to Government ever since I started in my role that I can do as much campaigning and involvement as I can—and we have two thirds of primary schools now involved in our campaigns, and half of secondaries—and so can the Government have campaigns to teach about rights, but, actually, until we get it nailed in the curriculum so that every child learns about their rights, without fail, throughout their schooling, not just as one lesson, and they also learn in an environment where children have their rights respected, so they learn the meaning of rights as well—. Because children, as you know, are very quick to pick up if you say 'do something' but you don't act in the same way. So, children will pick up that they've learned about their rights but they've not been protected from bullying or they've not had their additional learning needs met, or their mental health needs met. So, I've said to Government all along, and I do think this is—. An important next step Government could take to implement children's rights is to make sure that, as we revise the new curriculum and put through the curriculum and assessment Bill, not only do we absolutely nail the fact that children will learn about their human rights and the rights of others—all human rights—but they will also learn in environments where their human rights are respected. So, there will be a due-regard duty there as well. I don't think that we'll ever get the level of awareness up without those measures.
I think it's important to say, though, that there is a real barrier here in the process. And so you know about your right to have adequate and accessible information and to seek legal redress. But, if you can't find the way to do that, then that's going to ultimately remain a barrier to taking that challenge forward.
In your written evidence you say that your preference would be for further incorporation of the UNCRC through a duty on all public bodies to act compatibly with the UNCRC in carrying out their duties. How important is this, and which legislative approach should be used?
There are a number of options if the Government decides to move forward with further incorporation, and I'm sure you've been examining them this morning with different witnesses. But I think that we feel very positive about the current proposals in Scotland, where they're moving ahead very quickly now to incorporate children's rights, which would be an approach very like the Human Rights Act, which would be, as you've already said in your question, about—which would make all public bodies have to act in a way that is compatible, rather than necessarily just extending the due-regard duty, which could end up being a more bureaucratic way and perhaps a less hearts-and-minds and effective way, although I have to say I'd be very pleased to see any method of further incorporation. And it is important. Again, using this method the right way, I've worked so hard to change hearts and minds with public bodies, and we've worked with lots of local authorities, with all the health boards, some of the police forces, et cetera, to really try and change how they do things. And we're seeing change in how they do things, but that won't necessarily last, with changes of leadership, or whatever, or changes of budgets. What we really need is a duty in the law.
I think Assembly Members would be some of those best placed, actually, to see why this is important, because of the issues that you face in your constituencies. So, for example, a very regular issue that comes into my office and yours would be people upset about a decision around a change in service, the removal of a service, the closure of a school, a change in transport arrangements to school, et cetera. We can advise on what we would see as best practice for the local authority to do, and we do. So, we would advise individuals and Assembly Members what we think is best practice in terms of challenge and what we would advise local authorities that they should do would be to do a full analysis, et cetera, but what we have to say in our letter is that they're not required to do so. They are required for children and young people to participate in decision making in some circumstances, but they're not required to do a full children's rights impact assessment. So, we have to give that caveat as well.
We are continuing to work on this. We're really pleased that some local authorities have come forward to us and said, 'We'd like to start doing children's rights impact assessments, can you help?' And rather than just say, 'Why don't you do the Government one?', which we've been quite critical of, we are now developing and will very soon be publishing a very simple, straightforward guide, based on our five principles, for public bodies like local authorities and health boards, on how they should consider the principles of a children's rights approach when making these important decisions that we all hear about so often.
Okay. And, finally, your evidence does—you mentioned earlier the Scottish Government's current consultation on fully incorporating the UNCRC into Scottish law, and you refer to discussions with the Welsh Government and Ministers in this regard. What is the latest position on this in Wales as far as you are aware, and is it something that you still want to see considered?
I definitely do want to see it considered, as I've said. The Welsh Government have decided to look at equalities and human rights legislation as a whole and, of course, different rights in Wales do have different legal status. That's important; I'm sure you've heard from the Equality and Human Rights Commission about that. The argument I have made to Ministers—. And of course we're taking part in that and encouraging children's rights to be part of any new legislation. I have let Ministers know, including the First Minister, that Scotland decided that that approach would take a long time and to move ahead with children's rights first, because they are a group, of course—at least at 16 and under—without a franchise, without some of the mechanisms that adults have, and therefore they were a priority for moving this legislation forward. Obviously, I would like to see all sorts of human rights incorporated, but I definitely would like to see children's rights incorporated as soon as possible.
I know the Brexit Minister has been considering a human rights Act for Wales, and has talked about this in public. Obviously, I would assume and hope that children's rights would be part of that. It may be the way they go; I don't really mind how they do it, as long as they do it. But I am absolutely convinced now, in my fifth year as children's commissioner, that we do need to strengthen the Measure. The Measure was a first start. And it's interesting to see that Scotland—and Jersey, in fact, which is moving towards full incorporation—have looked very closely at what we've done in Wales and have seen the Measure as a first step. So, Jersey is legislating in two steps. The first step is a Measure just like ours, but they have in place, then, full incorporation to come a couple of years later.
Jest i bigo i fyny ar y pwynt olaf yna, a dweud y gwir—hynny yw, mwy o ddeddfwriaeth, ond dydy'r Mesur cyntaf ddim yn gweithio, felly onid yw'n well disgwyl iddo fe wreiddio yn y diwylliant, yn hytrach na sôn am ddod â mwy o ddeddfu i mewn?
Just to pick up on that final point, actually—so, more legislation, but the first Measure isn't working, so isn't it better to wait for it to embed in the culture, rather than talk about bringing more legislation in?
I don't think we can say it's not working at all. I think it's—you know, we have seen some progress. We've seen—. I've mentioned a couple of really good Bills that have really been underpinned by children's rights, which I don't know whether we'd have seen them in that way before. And certainly it gives us a lever and yourselves a lever to scrutinise. So, I absolutely don't want to rubbish the Measure. I don't think it's ineffective—I just think it could be better. What I'm seeing in my engagement with public bodies is that they're welcoming the chance to think about what a children's rights approach looks like; I find that I'm pushing at open doors with public bodies. They're actively coming to us and asking us how we can help them implement children's rights. I think they're ready to do it, and I think this would be a really progressive step for Wales.
I think at times the Measure is seen as sometimes a bit of a high watermark, and that children's rights in Wales are now embedded and implemented because of it, and that the foot then comes off the pedal a little bit. And I know you've heard from earlier witnesses that the Measure was what was achievable at the time in the context of devolution, but those barriers are not necessarily in place now. I think, particularly, with all of the equalities and human rights work, I wouldn't want anyone to see the Measure as the best possible thing that could be achieved in 2019, because I think there could be a lot more that could be done with the levers that are now open to the Assembly.
Ocê. Rydym ni wedi trafod yn barod eich bod chi'n teimlo ei bod hi'n aneglur sut mae Llywodraeth Cymru'n monitro canlyniadau penderfyniadau polisi ar gyfer plant, a hynny mewn ffordd systematig. Rydych chi wedi sôn am wneud yr asesiadau yn gynt yn y broses, ac y byddai hynny efallai yn gwneud pethau'n fwy clir, a bod yna gysylltiad rhwng yr asesiad a'r polisi ar y diwedd. A oes yna rywbeth arall y gallan nhw fod yn ei wneud?
Okay. We've already discussed that you feel that it's unclear how the Welsh Government monitors the outcomes of policy decisions for children, and that in a systematic way. You have mentioned undertaking the assessments earlier in the process, and that that would perhaps make things clearer, and that there would be a link between the assessment and the policy at the end. Is there something else that they could be doing?
Well, we would like to see revisiting of the assessment later on, including after implementation even. Sometimes, that's been in the plans—we've seen some legislation and measures where we've been told that that was the plan, to revisit the impact on children's rights, but we haven't actually ever seen that happen; I think people have moved on to the next thing. Obviously, in terms of outcomes for children, the Government has evaluated some important schemes in the past—the free breakfast in schools was evaluated very systematically, as was the foundation phase, to see which groups might miss out. I don't think they were badged as evaluating the impact on children's rights, but they did, in effect. They probably can't do a big expensive piece of research on every single thing they bring in but, obviously, I would like to see more.
I think the conversation I had with the First Minister last week—I was pleased we had an hour together; we had a half hour on child poverty measures and we had in front of us a list of all the measures the Government feels it's taking on child poverty and where investment could be made. Of course, the point I made, which he obviously accepted, was that you can't really make investment decisions until you're sure who they're having an impact on and how effective that impact is, or else it feels a bit haphazard, making investment decisions on different schemes, if we don't know how effective they are on children's rights. So, it is obviously a fundamental part of good government as well as, of course, fulfilling the accountability bit, again, of children's rights.
Ocê. Mae yna rai tystion wedi galw ar Lywodraeth Cymru i gyhoeddi, cyflwyno a monitro cam gweithredu cenedlaethol sy'n nodi'r cynnydd a wnaed wrth weithredu'r sylwadau terfynol. A ydy hwn yn ffordd y byddech chi hefyd yn hoffi ei weld yn digwydd ac, os felly, a ddylai fod yna ddyletswydd ar Weinidogion Cymru i wneud hyn?
Some witnesses have called on the Welsh Government to publish, deliver and monitor a national action that sets out progress made in implementing the concluding observations. Is this an approach you would also like to see happening and, if so, should there be a duty for Welsh Ministers to do this?
Before you come in on what should happen in the future on that, I just wanted to note again—I don't think it was in our written evidence, but the scheme should be reviewed when the UN do publish their concluding observations. So, the last ones were July 2016. I'm not aware that that's happened. It's supposed to be done within six months of those concluding observations being published, but I'm not aware that that happened. It's just to see whether there any recommendations that should be taken forward in Wales—that could be on participation measures or policy matters themselves.
Obviously, the United Kingdom is a signatory to the UN convention but, as you're well aware, the concluding observations relate to the UK Government and devolved Governments. And I think it's a really useful guide for Government as to what they should be doing in terms of fulfilling a programme for children as a whole. We had a new Government in 2016, and the concluding observations came out soon after. So, I did discuss that with the Minister at the time, and said that this would provide a fantastic platform and opportunity to develop a programme for children from, to discuss what they were going to do, how they were going to respond, whether there were any elements that weren't in the concluding observations that they were also going to work on. But that opportunity wasn't taken up at the time to have a proactive approach, rather than just saying later on what they did. I think they missed a chance there to do that. As you know, there have been a couple of very brief reports saying some of the things they've done, and I do think that the Government has missed an opportunity to properly analyse where we're at in relation to them, and to actually highlight some progress they've made—because the Government has made progress on some of the concluding observations, so, in a way, I'm surprised they haven't taken the opportunity to make people aware of that—but, also, of course, to acknowledge where they haven't made progress as well. It's important for accountability to children in Wales that they see that very clearly.
The four children's commissioners in the UK, and the commissioner for Jersey, will be, together, publishing a very brief document in November on our assessment of where all the Governments, including Wales, are at in relation to this. We will do a child-friendly version of that as well, and we'll say what we think the main priorities are for Government before the next UN reporting round, as to the things that they should do to complete that, whilst acknowledging some progress as well. You'll be very aware of the things that we'll be saying they should be doing next; they're all the things we often discuss around this table.
Does yna ddim ddyletswydd arnyn nhw i wneud. A ddylai fod dyletswydd?
There is no duty on them to do so. Should there be a duty?
Sorry, I forgot to answer that bit. Yes, I think it would be good, for those exact reasons—that it's about accountability, but also, actually, again, good government, acknowledging the international context and seeing it as a helpful document that helps form a programme for government. The next set of concluding observations will, again, come quite early—if it sticks to a time, which it doesn't always, the committee—quite early in the time of the next Government, so I, or my successor, I'm sure, will be making the same point again.
Iawn. Ac, yn olaf, beth yw'ch barn chi ar y buddion posib i blant yng Nghymru yn sgil y trydydd protocol dewisol ar gyfathrebu, sy'n rhoi'r hawl i blant wneud cwyn yn uniongyrchol i'r cenhedloedd unedig? A ddylai Llywodraeth Cymru fod yn galw ar y Deyrnas Unedig i gadarnhau hyn?
And, finally, what is your view on the possible benefits for children in Wales of the third optional protocol on communication, which gives children the right to make a direct complaint to the UN? Should the Welsh Government be calling on the UK Government to ratify this?
Absolutely. As commissioners, we've pushed the UK Government to ratify several related protocols for the UN convention. And, as you'll be aware, the UK has signed up to two others, and it's taken time to do that. So, I'm hoping that they will. We've seen the fantastic news, I think, that 16 child human rights defenders worldwide have now taken advantage of that protocol. No UK-based children have been able to do that, because we're not signed up to it, so that, I feel, was a gap, and unfortunate, because we have lots of passionate campaigners here. It will be very interesting to see what happens with that case and to see how effective it is. But it's a parallel to the issues that we were taking about earlier in this session, around children having effective mechanisms within Wales. So, the Welsh Government, I believe, is a little bit hypocritical in saying to the UK Government to do it; I hope they do, but I hope, at the same time, they also sort out mechanisms within Wales, and the two together would be a really strong statement to children about their right to seek redress when they feel that either their national rights, or internationally their rights, have been breached.
Are there any other questions from Members? No. Okay. Well, can I thank you both for attending and for answering all our questions? As usual, you'll be sent a transcript to check for accuracy following the meeting, but thank you, again, for your attendance this morning. Thank you.
Diolch yn fawr.
Item 6 then is papers to note. Paper to note 1 is a letter from the Minister for Health and Social Services updating us on perinatal mental health. Members have received a copy of this, and we're scheduling some time to discuss it next week. Paper to note 2 is a letter from the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee regarding looked-after children, inviting us to join its meeting on 2 December to discuss Government progress in relation to their recommendations on care-experienced children. I've agreed to attend that on behalf of the committee. Paper to note 3 is a letter from Welsh Government, giving us advance notice of a quadrilateral meeting with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 17 October. If Members are happy to note those three papers—. Thank you.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Can I then, for item 7, propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder for the meeting? Are Members content? Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:35.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:35.