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If your work brings you into contact with children and young people then the information in this section has been written for you. It is designed to challenge your understanding of children’s rights, and to encourage you to consider them as being at the heart of the work we all do with children and young people. Some of what follows is designed to challenge your thinking and perceptions of Children’s Rights and you may recognise dilemmas and tensions that are present for you as a worker or your service.
A key message is that children’s rights are about fairness, responsibility and respect for and between all people – regardless of whether they are young or old. Importantly, children’s rights are also about protecting children. They are about encouraging everyone, especially those responsible for looking after the best interests of children, to help promote an environment where children can more safely and confidently learn about their world. Where children can learn from us what it means to be a fair, respectful and responsible person.
It is also important to acknowledge that talking about children’s rights can provoke some very different reactions amongst people working with children and young people. Negative perceptions of children’s rights exist for many different reasons. Some practitioners may feel that children don’t show them respect, and that children’s rights are used against them ("I know my rights"). Some s feel it is hard enough to work with children and young people without ‘big brother’ coming along and telling them how they should do it. Maybe some practitioners agree with children’s rights, but feel they are under so much pressure and time constraints that they don’t have the time for them.
Children’s rights do not give children permission to treat you or anyone else with disrespect, and they are not about making your job harder. If you can accept that children’s rights are about promoting fairness, responsibility and respect for all, then surely upholding these rights are what we are all trying to do? To achieve this aim, practitioners need to claim children’s rights and place them at the heart of the work we do.