In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the UNCRC). This treaty spells out the rights of all children and is based on four key principles:
- the best interests of the child should be the first consideration for actions that affect him or her
- all children have the right to life, survival and development
- all children have the right to participate
- all rights belong to all children without discrimination or exception
Some examples of children’s rights are:
- the right to have a voice in matters that affect children
- the right to special protection
- the right to special education and care
- the right to play and rest
- the right to health
Every child and young person under the age of 18 has rights, no matter who they are, where they live or what they believe in. These rights are based on what they need to survive and flourish, such as clean water, good healthcare, protection from abuse and the chance to go to school. They take account of the particular needs of children, recognising that there are special factors involved in the development, nurture and protection of children, which differentiate them from adults.
Children’s Health Scotland’s special interest is in children and young people’s right to the best quality healthcare. We have the wellbeing of children and young people as our central focus and this aligns with the aims and aspirations of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. The rights and needs of sick children, young people and their families are widely protected and promoted through our work which is underpinned by the ten principles of the EACH Charter and their corresponding rights as set out in the UNCRC.
Children’s Health Scotland is a member of the European Association for Children in Hospital (EACH). EACH is the umbrella organisation for member associations involved in the welfare of all children before, during and after a hospital stay. In 1988 twelve of these associations met in the Netherlands for their first European conference. At this event the ‘Leiden Charter’ was drawn up which described in ten articles the rights of children in hospital. It is now known as the EACH Charter. The ten principles of the EACH Charter relate in many respects to the rights of the child in general as stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UN General Assembly adopted and opened for signature on 20 November 1989.
Since the adoption of the Charter in 1988 the understanding of what needs to be done with regard to children and healthcare has grown. In addition experiences confirmed the importance of what we call today ‘family and patient centred care’. At the 2001 EACH conference annotations to the Charter were adopted. These are a useful supplement to the original Charter and were prepared to help with its implementation. They were updated in 2016.
Eighteen organisations from Europe and Japan are members. The activities of these members are adapted to the needs of each country and their aim is to advise, inform and support families/carers of sick children regardless of their illness; to promote the welfare of sick children amongst healthcare and other professionals and to negotiate with government authorities to improve the care of children in healthcare services. Members aim to have the principles of the Charter incorporated into their countries’ health laws, regulations and guidelines.
Children’s Health Scotland uses the EACH Charter to promote the healthcare rights of children and young people. We deliver workshops on EACH and children and young people’s healthcare rights to children, young people, and talks to healthcare professionals. These have included nursing students, hospital play specialists and nursery nurses. We have produced an EACH poster, which illustrates the ten Charter articles, and also a Young People’s EACH Charter, in conjunction with young people, which includes their interpretation of the Charter points. These can be ordered from our national office on 0131 553 6553. We encourage all NHS Boards to disseminate the EACH Charter to their staff. The Charter is recommended by the Scottish Government in ‘Delivering a Healthy Future: An Action Framework for Children and Young People in Scotland’ as a standard against which NHS Boards can assess their Child Health Services.
- Parents and carers to provide or arrange to provide the support and care their children need.
- Those in public office to create the framework within which parents and carers may become active in the care of their child in hospital.
- Those involved in the care of sick children and young people to learn about the rights of children and young people in hospital.
To view the full annotated version of the Charter visit www.each-for-sick-children.org. Copies can be ordered from Children’s Health Scotland on 0131 553 6553.
To find out more about children’s rights visit www.togetherscotland.org.uk