Children's rights have been at the cornerstone of the participation agenda for the past 30 years. The fundamental values of children’s human rights – respecting children as individuals with equal worth and an inherent right to live a life with dignity – are entwined throughout the participation agenda.

Children are guaranteed a wide range of human rights through a series of human rights instruments. However, recognising the unique needs of early life, the international community has agreed a specific human rights treaty for children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to all those aged 17 and under. Adopted by the UN in 1989, it gives children and young people a set of comprehensive set of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It includes specific rights to guarantee children's participation in all matters affecting them. By 1997, every country in the world except the USA and Somalia had ratified the UNCRC, making it one of the world’s most widely and quickly ratified human rights instruments.

In 1991, with cross party support, the UK Government agreed to implement the Convention. In doing so the UK has pledged to make all the rights in the Convention a reality for all children in the UK. While the Convention is not currently part of UK law, it is international law and UK courts may make reference to the UNCRC when making judgements.

In England the Department for Education (DfE) is responsible for implementing the Convention. Sarah Teather MP, Minister of State for Children and Families, has ministerial responsibility for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Other international treaties also give children specific rights, including freedom to express themselves. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is incorporated into domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998.  It enables citizens of the UK - including children and young people - to protect their ECHR rights through domestic courts, and if necessary to take their complaints to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Listen and Change - A Guide to Children and Young People's Participation Rights
Listen & ChangeThis guide aims to increase understanding of children and young people’s participation rights and how they can be realised in local authority and third sector settings. It suggests ways to effectively listen to children and young people in order to create change with them and for them.
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Human Rights are Children’s Rights: A guide to ensuring children and young people’s rights are respected. Basic information on the Human Rights Act 1998 with examples of how it has been used to protect and promote children’s human rights.

Ready Steady Change. A comprehensive overview and set of training materials and tools for adults and for children and young people to increase children and young people's effective participation in decision-making. The Participation Works Ready Steady Change training programme includes a series of related activities.

The Developing Children’s Champions section of the Taking Part in Making Decisions: Training for 8 to 12-year-olds. resource includes a series of activities to help children understand their rights.

Your Rights to Be Heard. A series of four guides for young people living in England to help them understand their rights to be heard in different situations.

Promising Rights: Introducing children's rights at school
This book shares the experiences of one school that has gone beyond the usual approaches to children’s rights, finding imaginative ways to increase children’s participation.

Right Year for Children
A year of action to strengthen children's rights in England.
Find out more

Participation Rights

Participation is a fundamental part of citizenship. It is the process by which children and young people can influence decision-making which affects their lives to bring about positive change.

Monitoring Children's Rights

Human rights are a tool to create positive change for and with children. Monitoring their implementation is a critical aspect of achieving this change.


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Related Resources

How to work successfully with children and young people from different faiths and cultures

This How To guide looks at how children and young people's different faiths and cultures can impact on participation work.

Making Change Happen

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Your rights to be heard (summary)

We have written four guides for children and young people living in England to help them understand their rights to be heard in different situations.

Your rights to be heard in school

This guide helps children and young people know their rights to be heard and taken seriously if they want to have more of a say in their education.

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Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB

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