Children’s rights perspective on social policy

The term 'rights' can be rather complex to define, with many different expressions associated with it. However narrowing this down to a specific aspect of rights; Human Rights, can be defined as special rights that belong to all people who are competent to exercise them. (Clarke, K et al, 1996). In order for this to be of value, and merely not just a statement, it must try and define the attributes of 'human rights'. As (Morrow, J. 1998) mentions a few characteristics, above all Human rights are inherent and universal not "given" by governments, or any superior authorities.

Responsibility falls upon the government to respect, protect and fulfil these rights. Saying this, it means not abusing people's rights, preventing abuse by others and working to ensure that some rights, such as the right to health care and a healthy environment, are implemented gradually. In fact almost every country in the world has signed one or more treaties, promising to respect, protect and fulfil certain rights (Pascall, G, 1997).

However some may question that if in reality these rights have been well acquainted for by the government or not. This leads to the objective for this assignment, is in effect to illustrate and evaluate specifically the rights of children set out through the children's rights perspective and to consider how this particular perspective has had an overall effect upon social policies for children and their families within the UK.

Initially focusing on children and children's rights, the historical perceptions of children and the emergence of children's rights is profoundly perceptible, as throughout the ages many changes have occurred. Briefly glancing at the history of childhood within Britain, in pre-industrial society being a child was viewed the same as being an adult. As children, significantly working class children, would most often work and be seen as an economic asset according to Aries (Aries, P. 1962 cited in Lavalette M and Pratt A, 2001).

Since children were considered to be miniature adults. The treatment of young offenders within the nineteenth century was horrendous, child convicts were obliged to undertake hard, physical work for very little or no rewards, and at the same time were forced to endure savage disciplinary regimes where many forms of physical punishment was the norm. (Lavalette M and Pratt A, 2001, p: 236). It was not until the 1870's that the first serious steps were taken towards protecting children from economical exploitation and expanding the working class educational division.

(Lavalette M and Pratt A, 2001 p239). The social inferior status of children is assumed to be a natural factor (Lavalette M and Pratt A, 2001 p: 233). This stance can be taken into consideration, as (Archard 1993 cited in Clarke, K et al, 1996). Viewed that children have a special nature that clearly and distinctly sets them apart from adults. Due to this they need a world different from adults; as a result they are viewed as vulnerable, dependant and in need of adults. From distinguishing the attitudes and views on children throughout British history.

It can be clear that the rights of children were giving some form of importance and recognition within the late 1980s, when the Children Act 1989 was introduced and the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the child 1989 was incorporated within Britain in 1991 (Lavalette M and Pratt A, 2001, P: 246). These new Acts of enforcements brought hope that the near future would bring changes to children's rights and overall a prosperous welfare provision. The "children's rights movement" has existed in various forms for well over a century.

Early concerns for children and their rights were voiced by "child savers" who were instrumental in establishing separate institutions for children, such as juvenile courts, distinct penal systems and a system of compulsory education (Daniel, P & Ivatts, J, 1998). However over the last 20 years there has been a significant increase in relation to children's rights within society, main concerns over children's health, education and general welfare, This perspective focuses more on the child, and takes a child centred approach, where the child is seen as an independent with rights to shaping their future and prospects.

Since in the political aspects, there has been a 'progressive politics of inclusion' (Lavalette M and Pratt A, 2001), which positively supports the rights of children, therefore children's requirements are somewhat now acknowledged and valued, where as traditionally children where 'to be seen and not herd'. Currently the principles of the Children's Rights perspective suggests that social policy's for children should be made and shaped by children themselves, for instance issues regarding family life, education, health, protection etc.

Refering back to social policy, 'social policy' has many important roles and is used for nemourous factors. In the first sense, social policy is particularly concerned with social services and the welfare state. In the second, broader sense, it stands for a range of issues extending far beyond the actions of government, the means by which welfare is promoted, and the social and economic conditions which shape the development of welfare.

Within the UK, the framework for policys change frequently. The most recent changes have been the reformation of the Department of Social Security into the Department of Work and Pensions, the significant transfer of income maintenance to the Inland Revenue, and the demolition of the Department of Transport, the Regions and Local Government, whose key social policy responsibilities have now been placed in the Office fo the Deputy Prime Minister. ( Spicker, P.2003)

Within the social policy spectrum, emphasising particularly on social policies aimed at children. According to Lorraine Fox Harding (Fox Harding, L. 1991), presently there seems to be four main active paradigms of social policy. When exploring each perspective, it is apparent that each viewpoint has been constructed upon several political thoughts. Although these perspectives have similar aims and objectives, there are substantial differences within them.

Initiating with the Laissez-faire perspective of social policy, this viewpoint suggests that within the household, predominately fathers know best. Therefore the state intervention is kept to a minimal and takes place in severer circumstances. Secondly looking at the Birth Parents Rights perspective, this view highlights the importance of the birth parents and family structure. The approach is concerned with the birth parents needs and rights to be valued and given recognition of importance. (Fox Harding, L, 1991).