Faculty: Cost of adopting UNCRC ‘underestimated’
Enhanced rights for children will come at a cost, and the Scottish government’s estimate of £2 million is unrealistic, the Faculty of Advocates has suggested.
Ministers have drafted a bill and accompanying financial memorandum to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law.
Views on the bill are being taken by the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee.
In a submission, the Faculty said incorporation of the UNCRC – which it supported in an earlier consultation – should make it easier for children to access their rights “but the financial consequences are potentially very significant and likely to be underestimated in the Financial Memorandum.”
The Faculty added: “The Convention provides for very general and broadly stated rights to education, housing, health care, standard of living, protection from abuse and injury, and many other rights…there are very likely to be many matters of interpretation which arise, which have the potential to generate a considerable quantity of litigation, with significant cost implications, both in terms of the litigation itself, and in terms of the resulting practical consequences.
“We do not consider that the £2 million budget set out in the Financial Memorandum is realistic. The budget does not take into account the cost to public authorities of fulfilling their obligations in terms of children accessing their rights under the Bill. The budget does not factor in the cost of litigation to public authorities, the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Children’s Commissioner.”
The bill proposes extension of time limits within which public authorities could be taken to court to enforce children’s rights – currently three months for judicial review and one year in other litigation.
The Faculty feared the extensions would be “impractical at a number of levels” and added: “Were the time limits to remain three months and one year, with discretion to extend, with an express requirement to have regard to the fact that the applicant is under the age of 18 when deciding whether a late claim could be made, that would permit the court to balance all the relevant considerations, with a particular focus on the rights and interests of children.”