UK: Will the Family Test make a difference to children’s lives?
The UK government recently announced a new Family Test; their aim is to place family at the heart of government decision-making.
This means that when government departments are developing new policy or legislation, the potential effect on families should be considered.
Focussing on children
Despite the centrality of children to the idea of family, all too often when families are discussed in public policy the focus tends to be on the adults.
The child’s perspective gets forgotten.
As a mother of two young children, I of course recognise the important role parents have within families, but I also appreciate that if the Family Test is to achieve its aim of ‘supporting strong and stable families’ then proper consideration must be given to the youngest members.
An important anniversary
This November marks 25 years since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the United Nations.
The CRC sets out the minimum standards we should expect for all children, so they can have fulfilling and happy childhoods and a fair start in life.
The UK government ratified the CRC in 1991, with cross-party support, and by doing so committed to making sure children have the childhood to which they are entitled and are supported to fulfil their potential.
Failing to assess impact on children
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has given clear recommendations to systematically assess policy for its impact on children; despite this, successive UK governments have failed to do so.
For example, if a child rights impact assessment had been carried out on childcare reforms, for example, it would have become clear how important it is that education provision for 3 and 4 year-olds and, more recently, disadvantaged two year-olds, is both free and high quality.
This is especially important in the context of the UK’s continuing long-standing problem with poorer children being more likely to fall behind early and then stay behind.
An opportunity to place children at the heart of government
In this important anniversary year, the Family Test offers an opportunity to ensure that children’s best interests are considered when decisions are made.
However, this will only be achieved if the Family Test includes a robust impact assessment on the implementation of the CRC.
We cannot afford to wait another 25 years for this to happen and, most importantly, nor can our children.