The kids are all right? Embedding children’s rights in town planning policy and practice

 

A survey undertaken by YoungScot to accompany the Scottish Government’s Places, People and Planning consultation concluded that the majority of young people felt that they should be involved in planning in their local area and that their local councils should look at ways to support children and young people to do this.

The current Scottish Planning Bill contains a number of provisions that aim to do just that – including enhancing the engagement of children and young people in shaping their local areas through the statutory development plans, and the requirement for planning authorities to use methods that will secure the engagement of children and young people.

The right to participate

This focus upon children’s participation in the planning system can be viewed as part of a wider move towards the greater acknowledgement of children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC sets out the fundamental rights of all children and young people across the world.  It states that the best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect children.  There are, therefore, many aspects that are directly relevant to the planning system.

Indeed, the right to participate in decision-making (Article 12); and the right to participate in play, rest, leisure and culture (Article 31) are particularly pertinent.  These include:

  • The right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities.
  • An environment secure from social harm and violence, and sufficiently free from pollution, traffic and other hazards that impede free and safe movement.
  • Space to play outdoors in diverse and challenging physical environments, with access to supportive adults, when necessary.
  • Opportunities to experience, interact with and play in natural environments and the animal world.
  • Opportunities to explore and understand the cultural and artistic heritage of their community, participate in, create and shape it.
  • Opportunities to participate with other children in games, sports and other recreational activities, supported, where necessary, by trained facilitators or coaches.

Child-friendly cities

Children’s rights are also at the heart of the Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI):

A child friendly city is the embodiment of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the local level, which in practice means that children’s rights are reflected in policies, laws, programmes and budgets. In a child friendly city, children are active agents; their voices and opinions are taken into consideration and influence decision making processes.”

Four key principles of the UNCRC are considered to be particularly pertinent to the CFCI initiative:

  • Non-discrimination – a child-friendly city is friendly and inclusive for all children
  • Best interests – putting children first in all decisions that affect them
  • Every child’s right to life and maximum development – providing the optimal conditions for childhood, including their physical, mental, spiritual, moral, psychological and social development
  • Listening to children and developing their views – promoting children’s active participation as citizens and rights-holders, ensuring their freedom of expression

Awareness and understanding of children’s rights among planners

However, in her research on children’s role within the town planning system, Dr Jenny Wood found that there was little acknowledgement or understanding of children’s rights under the UNCRC.  Indeed, planners commonly believed that the provision of schools, parks and designated play facilities were all that was required in order to meet children’s needs.

Dr Wood argues that if public spaces and the planning process are to become more inclusive, then planners need to develop a better understanding of children’s rights.  In a separate blog, she sets out five key steps to help embed children’s rights in the everyday work of planners and other practitioners:

  • specific children’s rights training for planners
  • government guidance on, and suggested methods for, engagement with children and young people
  • the creation of a robust and routine feedback mechanism between planners and child participants
  • encouraging networking, collaboration, and skills exchange between planners, play workers, and youth workers
  • the collation of an accessible evidence base on children, young people and their relationship to, and use of, the built environment

Future directions

There are some wider signs of progress – including the introduction of Children’s Rights and Well-Being Impact Assessments (CRWIA), which are now required for all new policy developments in Scotland, and new measures that require specific public authorities in Scotland, including all local authorities and health boards, to report every three years on how they have progressed children’s rights as set out in the UNCRC.

The current reform of the planning system offers an ideal opportunity to further advance children’s rights by encouraging and supporting local planning authorities to involve children and young people in planning as part of their everyday practice.


Feeling inspired?  Why not read our previous blog posts on involving children in the town planning process and the creation of child-friendly cities.   

Idox Information Service members can also download our briefing on Planning a child-friendly city via our customer website.

Intimacy and sexuality in care homes

Talking about sexuality and intimacy can be an awkward and, for some, taboo subject, particularly when the people we are discussing are parents or elderly relatives.

However, in a care setting, where a relative has been moved into care, sexuality, sexual needs and questions around intimacy often remain un-talked about and un-catered for, and can create an awkward situation for residents, relatives and care staff.

For many people, intimacy is a ‘normal everyday’ part of life. But when moving into residential care, for many people, that is lost. They feel their privacy is taken away and their ability to conduct life as they had before needs to change as a result of moving from their home. The onset of conditions such as dementia in later life can also make other people uneasy about the idea of continuing with intimate relationships, or indeed starting new ones later in life. One of the aims of the research conducted by a team at Manchester University on older people’s understanding of sexuality (OPUS project) is to look at erotophobia, or a fear of older people’s sexuality (within the remit of feelings and beliefs on sexuality more generally).

The loss of identity through sexual expression can be even more explicitly felt by members of the LGBT community, many of whom, studies have found, have felt the need to ‘go back into the closet’ upon entering residential care.

In 2010 the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a set of sexual rights. In this the right of the individual to choice is key and something which care homes must still respect.

Sexual rights in older people was also the subject of a report by the Royal College of Nursing who commented that “when someone moves into a care home, to all intents and purposes the private space of their room is exactly that, their private space and provided any acts are consensual care homes should facilitate the wishes of residents to the fullest extent.” Within a human rights context, adults living in residential settings, unless they have had certain rights and freedoms curtailed or restricted by the law, generally have the same basic rights and freedoms as any citizen to live their lives as they wish. This includes possibly doing things that others might consider to be unwise or inappropriate.

In addition, although many decisions about care within a care home setting are taken in consultation with the family of the resident, carers and care home managers must also remember that they have a duty to their patient, and there is a level of patient-carer confidentiality which carers should be mindful of when discussing topics such as sex, sexuality or intimacy.

However, in that context it is also the case that care home workers have a duty of care, to protect vulnerable people from abuse, exploitation and situations which they might find distressing. The International Longevity Centre have produced a guide which contains advice around intimacy and sexuality in care homes, looks at intimacy in older people, (particularly older people with dementia) and the position of people within the LGBT community who move into residential care.

Many within the LGBT community have expressed a feeling of discrimination or anxiety about their sexuality on entering residential care and as a result there are suggestions of LGBT only residential care homes being created, with one proposed for either London or Brighton in the next few years.

The legality behind many of the decisions taken in care homes is set out in law, including definitions of consent, abuse, exploitation, violence. However, the individual practices of care homes regarding policy is often set out and implemented at the discretion of care home managers and staff and it is their responsibility to ensure that they have an effective and consistent policy in place when it comes to sexuality, intimacy and relationships more generally.

They also have a responsibility to ensure that staff are suitably trained to tackle any issues which may arise, answer any questions from residents or family members and recognise boundaries and levels of appropriateness while still delivering care to residents. Care workers must balance delivering effective care with promoting personal emotional and mental well being, allowing residents a level of freedom and personal choice while ensuring adequate safeguards are in place. This is not an easy task. However, more research is currently being conducted, and improved training for staff is also being increasingly offered as the norm.


Our popular Ask-a-Researcher enquiry service is one aspect of the Idox Information Service, which we provide to members in organisations across the UK to keep them informed on the latest research and evidence on public and social policy issues. To find out more on how to become a member, get in touch.

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Care vs control: the Mental Capacity Act and deprivation of liberty

deprivation of libertyOriginal Image by JohnHain licensed under Creative Commons

In a time where our Human Rights are being politicised and reviewed there are far reaching consequences of any changes. An example of this is its application to those who suffer mental health issues. Article 5 of the Human Rights Act states that ‘everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty [unless] in accordance with a procedure prescribed in law’. But what happens if a person is a danger to themselves or others? How can society ensure we honour their human rights whilst protecting them from harm?

We recently had an enquiry from a member about the Mental Capacity Act. They wanted to understand how the act and, specifically, the deprivation of liberty safeguards would affect their service users. Taking away someone’s right to liberty is a very real dilemma facing service providers who are dealing with safeguarding decisions at the sacrifice of a human right. These safeguards have been put in place to help deal with that situation, give clear guidance and ensure that liberty is protected.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence presents the following key messages in relation to the safeguards:

  • The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are an amendment to the Mental Capacity Act 2005. They apply in England and Wales only.
  • The Mental Capacity Act allows restraint and restrictions to be used – but only if they are in a person’s best interests.
  • Extra safeguards are needed if the restrictions and restraint used will deprive a person of their liberty. These are called the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
  • The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards can only be used if the person will be deprived of their liberty in a care home or hospital. In other settings the Court of Protection can authorise a deprivation of liberty.
  • Care homes or hospitals must ask a local authority if they can deprive a person of their liberty. This is called requesting a standard authorisation.
  • There are six assessments which have to take place before a standard authorisation can be given.
  • If a standard authorisation is given, one key safeguard is that the person has someone appointed with legal powers to represent them. This is called the relevant person’s representative and will usually be a family member or friend.
  • Other safeguards include rights to challenge authorisations in the Court of Protection, and access to Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs).

We found that most of the published research into the Mental Capacity Act so far has, in fact, concentrated on the impact it has had in terms of issues around capacity to consent, through the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards introduced as part of the Act.

In March 2014 the Supreme Court identified an ‘acid test’ to understand whether people were being deprived of their liberty. This, and the quantity of research being developed around this area, highlights the difficulty in ensuring that our liberties are safeguarded: each case must be individually assessed and an informed decision made, which make the safeguards vital in the appropriate treatment of vulnerable individuals.

The results of our research for our member highlighted the use of case studies in this area, especially those which highlight best practice and the individual approach. Research looked at the impact of the MCA on service users in general terms, as well as on particular groups, including people with learning disabilities, those living in residential care, and young people. After reviewing the evidence, some of the most appropriate examples we shared with our member included:

The Idox Information Service can give you access to further information on act and provides a range of resources for social services departments, more information can be found on our website here.

To access services such as ask a researcher or find out more on how to become a member contact us here.

Stop and search powers targeting minorities

British policeman

by Donna Gardiner

The public reaction to the outcome of the inquest into the shooting of Mark Duggan has highlighted the need for the police to improve their relationship with black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

One area of long running contention is the use of ‘stop and search’ powers by police – where police can stop and search people in public places for drugs, weapons, stolen goods or other potentially criminal items under certain circumstances. Continue reading