Blog post by Emily Harle MSYP, Convener of SYP’s Equality and Human Rights Committee
In a Scotland where ‘unprecedented circumstances’ are taking control of every aspect of young people’s lives, it is paramount for us to be included in all decisions that affect us. As young people, our lives have drastically changed due to lockdown measures and restrictions. Too often these changes have happened without us being involved.
Within education, for example, we have seen decisions made, where it has felt like we have had little to no input from the students who will actually experience and live through their impact.
Without swift commencement of incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots Law-which will legally protect young people’s right to have their views heard, acknowledged and above all, considered in all matters affecting them- decision making like this, on behalf of young people without any meaningful engagement, may continue.
Across Scotland, young people have voiced their growing concerns loudly, and in SYP’s first Lockdown Lowdown survey, around half (49%) of respondents claimed to be moderately or extremely concerned about education closures. This is quite likely linked to feelings of powerlessness and a lack of involvement in the decision-making processes surrounding education. One respondent in particular stated their ‘pathway to university has gone, and I had very little control over it’ (from Lockdown Lowdown Phase Two), and another young person discussed the detrimental impact of taking on a caring role whilst online learning themselves, which they say created a chaotic environment and impacted on their own school work.
I am a young person studying at university. It is obvious to me and my friends that the majority of missteps on this area could have been minimalised or avoided if young people had simply been included in the dialogue from the beginning. Instead, many young people across Scotland have been in a state of near constant worry about their educational present and future, and have felt that decisions are being made for them, instead of with them.
Thankfully, if rather late, this has begun to improve- with an MSYP on the Covid Education Recovery Group, and an MSYP on the SQA’s National Qualifications Group, alongside tangible efforts by both Scottish Government and the SQA to engage meaningfully with wider groups of young people.
However, these uncertain times mean that circumstances are changing day-by-day- and decisions have to be made quickly. Without legal obligations to consult young people on the biggest issues affecting our lives, mistakes could easily be made again- not just in education, but in every policy area that affects us.
Times are changing so quickly, and in a year already burdened with uncertainty, young people need the assurance and protections of UNCRC incorporation now more than ever. We are grateful to be so close to this becoming reality, and to everyone inside and outside Parliament and Government, who have helped to get to this point.
But young people won’t experience this change until the new law actually comes into effect, which is why SYP believes that the UNCRC (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill needs to commence as soon as possible. We are backing an amendment for the Bill to commence within 6 months of receiving Royal Assent. The sooner this happens, the sooner young people can access the protection we so desperately need from the impact of the ongoing pandemic.
It’s time for young people to have the protection we need, in law, for our rights to be upheld. It’s time for us to be at the heart of every decision that affects us. It’s time to incorporate the UNCRC.