Home-Start Scotland and Parenting across Scotland have hosted an event in Edinburgh to discuss how organisations can use the principals of the United Nation Convention on Rights of the Child to support families.

Over 150 people from across Scotland came together to listen to a series of keynote speakers on the theme of the importance of children’s rights and also share experiences and examples from their work.

Judith Robertson, the Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, kicked off the day by giving a whistle-stop tour of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), followed by a discussion into the five key principles of the human rights framework: 

  • participation, 
  • being accountable for your actions, 
  • non-discriminative behaviour, 
  • empowerment for all,
  • ensuring all acts remain lawful. 

Judith explained, “Unless you are told about your rights, unless you know about and can claim those rights, you do not have those rights” and for some families, claiming their rights can be a lot harder. 


The conversation then continued with Karyn McCluskey, the Chief Executive of Community Justice Scotland, who spoke honestly about how families can find themselves in difficult situations and the injustices that come with these. She used various examples explaining how, if parents aren’t supported, you can’t support a child in their right to grow up great and in making those early years count.

Karyn concluded her talk reminding the audience that they, too, can make a difference to a family’s life; “Things could get better, or worse. Your life is not fixed. Something could happen that puts your life on a different trajectory, this happens to so many of the families that we serve… we have done good things, we have done things that people would never think would happen. You can make a difference.”


After a short break, Professor Morag Treanor from Heriot-Watt University discussed her research into child poverty throughout Scotland explaining her findings that, during times of need, more and more families are needing to use food banks. Her final message to the audience hit home with many of those sitting opposite her; “you cannot fulfil children’s rights in a vacuum, you need to support families, working alongside them and for them.” 

“You cannot help children without helping their families”

One particularly poignant example Morag used explained how those who are financially vulnerable are often in debt to statutory bodies. She shared the story of a mother whose washing machine had broken and she couldn’t afford £250 outright to replace it. Due to this, she resorted to using a payday loan where the interest skyrocketed the total balance to £2,520. 

The day concluded with a variety of roundtable discussions followed by a Q&A session with the panel where questions were asked about how leaving the European Union may affect the rights of families and children, the terminology which should be used when talking to families as well as cementing the

 notion that human rights are for all and we can all do something to make a child’s early years count. 

For more information about The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and to read Home-Start’s full response to the consultation, click here.