Skills and Knowledge Framework

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About the UNCRC

Table of Contents

Children’s rights are set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC sets out what children and young people need to grow up healthy, happy and safe and to ensure their views are taken into account in decisions that affect them. 

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (6) applies to everyone under the age of 18. Its aim is to ensure that children and young people grow up in a spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity. 

The UNCRC was drafted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. As of 2024, 196 countries have ratified it, including the United Kingdom on 16 December 1991. 

Every child and young person has 42 substantive rights under the UNCRC. These rights come from Articles, which are specific sections of the UNCRC. 

These rights are all equally important and depend on each other for their effectiveness, but can be divided into categories, often referred to as ‘clusters’. These clusters are not in the same order as the Articles are in the UNCRC, but have been identified by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to show links between different rights and to support a shared understanding of the holistic nature of the UNCRC: 

Clusters

General principles

  • Right to life, survival and development 
  • Right to non-discrimination 
  • Right to express views freely and have these taken into account 
  • Right to have the child’s best interests taken as a primary consideration in all matters affecting them 

Civil rights and freedoms

  • Right to a name and nationality 
  • Right to freedom of expression 
  • Right to freedom of thought and association 
  • Right of access to information 
  • Right not to be tortured or ill treated

Violence against children and young people

  • Right to protection from violence, abuse and neglect 
  • Right to protection from traditional practices that are bad for children’s health 
  • Right to protection from school discipline 
  • Right to protection from all forms of sexual exploitation 
  • Right to protection from inhumane or degrading treatment 
  • Right to recovery from trauma and reintegration 

Family environment and alternative care:

  • Right to live with and have contact with both parents unless this is not in the child’s best interests 
  • Right to be reunited with parents if separated from them 
  • Right to appropriate alternative care where necessary 

Basic health and welfare​

  • Rights of disabled children and young people 
  • Right to health and health care 
  • Right to social security 
  • Right to childcare 
  • Right to an adequate standard of living 
  • Right to a healthy environment 

Education, leisure and cultural activities

  • Right to education 
  • Right to play 
  • Right to leisure and to participate in cultural life and the arts 

Special protection measures

  • Rights of migrant and refugee children and young people 
  • Rights of children and young people affected by armed conflicts 
  • Rights of children and young people in the child justice system 
  • Rights of children and young people deprived of their liberty 
  • Rights of children and young people suffering exploitation 

A number of these rights have also been recognised as being particularly relevant in relation to the child’s environment:

  • Right to non-discrimination 
  • Best interest of the child 
  • Right to life, survival and development 
  • Right to be heard 
  • Right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly 
  • Access to information 
  • The right to freedom from all forms of violence 
  • Right to health 
  • Right to social security and decent standard of living 
  • Right to education 
  • Rights of Indigenous children and children of minority groups 
  • Right to rest and play 
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Painted wooden birds
Childrens art - can you take me seriously
Childrens art - can you take me seriously
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Useful resources to learn more about the articles

  • The UNCRC is available in child friendly language as a poster from UNICEF (PDF) (7). 
  • The Articles are also available in simplified language (8) as interactive webpages with illustrations from the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland. 
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Useful introductory resources to learn more about the UNCRC

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