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LAST MODIFIED ON: 29/07/2020
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Existence of a National Youth Law
There is no comprehensive youth law in Scotland. Instead, several different pieces of legislation cover the entitlements of young people.
Youth policy-makers and service providers operate within general legislative frameworks as regards, for example, health and safety, employment and the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.
More specific legislative frameworks are associated with the:
- Education (Scotland) Act 1980
- The Requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013.
Other relevant legislation includes:
- Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
- Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003
- Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
Scope and Contents
This Act sets out the duty of education authorities (synonymous with local authorities in this context) to secure the provision of facilities for social, cultural and recreational activities and physical education and training for pupils at schools in their area.
To achieve this, education authorities may establish, maintain and manage:
- camps, outdoor centres, playing fields and swimming pools
- play areas and centres
- sports halls, centres and clubs
- youth, community and cultural centres and clubs and other places at which any such facilities are available
- holiday classes, games, expeditions and other activities.
They may also assist other bodies in order to achieve such provision.
These Regulations place requirements on education authorities (synonymous with local authorities in this context) that they are to meet in discharging their duties under section 1 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to secure adequate and efficient provision of both school education and further education, which in this context includes community learning and development and is not age limited.
The community learning and development to which the Regulations apply is defined as including ‘programmes of learning and activities designed with individuals and groups to promote the educational and social development of those individuals and groups’, secured within the education authority’s area.
In practice, the term ‘community learning and development’ covers a range of community-based activities aimed at learning, personal development or active citizenship, including work with young people.
The Regulations themselves are made under section 2 of the Act, which allows Scottish Ministers to prescribe requirements to which every education authority (synonymous with local authority in this context) must conform when discharging its obligations under the Act.
Education authorities are required to initiate and, having done so, to maintain and facilitate a process by which community learning and development within the area of the education authority is secured in a way that:
- identifies target individuals and groups
- has regard to the needs of those target individuals and groups for that community learning and development
- assesses the degree to which those needs are already being met
- identifies barriers to the adequate and efficient provision of that community learning and development.
This Act legislated for a fundamental shift in emphasis from the traditional view of parents having rights over children to the principle that parents have responsibilities towards their children. The welfare of the child should be the paramount consideration in making decisions affecting the child.
Due regard is to be given to children's views, so far as practicable and subject to their age and maturity. Children aged 12 and older are generally presumed to have sufficient age and maturity to express a view, if they wish to do so.
In relation to the provision of services for children by local authorities, due regard should be given, without discrimination, to a child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.
Local authorities have a duty under the Act to prepare Children’s Services Plans.
Consultation of young people does not take place systematically when new legislation is being proposed, but it is usual for there to be consultation processes in which young people may participate (see the article entitled ‘Young people’s participation in policy-making’).
This established the role of Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland with the function of promoting and safeguarding the rights of children and young people. There is a focus on participation and consultation on matters concerning children and young people and on encouraging other organisations beyond the Commissioner’s own remit to have regard to this.
The legislation requires that the Commissioner acts ‘in a manner which encourages equal opportunities and, in particular, the observance of the equal opportunity requirement’ and that he or she pays ‘particular attention to groups of children and young people who do not have other adequate means by which they can make their views known.’
This contains provisions relating to the wellbeing of children, young people and families, including:
- providing a legal definition of wellbeing
- placing duties on public bodies to coordinate the planning, design and delivery of services for children and young people with a focus on improving wellbeing outcomes, and report collectively on how they are improving those outcomes
- ensuring better permanence planning for looked after children (those ‘in the care’ of their local authority) by giving all young people born after 1 April 1999 and looked after in foster, kinship or residential care, the entitlement to stay in their care placement until their 21st birthday
- requiring Scottish Government Ministers to consider how they might secure better or further effect in Scotland of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
A requirement to report every three years on the steps taken in that period to secure better or further effect of the UNCRC came into effect in April 2017.
Note: In June 2017, the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament. If passed, the Bill will introduce a duty on public and other services to consider if information sharing will support, safeguard or promote the wellbeing of a child or young person. The Bill will also make changes to the information sharing provisions contained in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. At the time of writing (February 2019) the Bill is at Stage 1.
From April 2017, the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 extended the duty on local authorities to produce a children’s services plan which was introduced by the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The coverage of these plans, which previously focused on social services, will increase to every service ‘capable of having a significant effect on the wellbeing of children’ provided in the local authority area. The range of organisations covered by the duty to consult will also be expanded.