Risks, rights and responsibilities
When we think about the rights of children and young people, we also have to think about the role and duties of parents. The next activity provides an opportunity to find out more about the rights and responsibilities of parents.
Activity 4.3 Rights and responsibilities of parents
Read this short leaflet about family law and young people in Scotland, and then answer the questions below.
- What rights do parents have?
- What responsibilities do parents have?
- What does the law say about what should happen if parents do not fulfil their responsibilities to children?
In Scotland parents have certain legal responsibilities for their children and young people (up to the age of 16), including:
- safeguarding and promoting their health, development and welfare
- providing direction and guidance according to their stage of development
- acting as the child's legal representative.
In making major decisions that affect children who are old enough to understand and contribute, parents should give the children an opportunity to express their views.
If parents do not fulfil their responsibilities they may lose all or some of their parental rights to care for their child.
In Scotland the expectation is that all adults have a role in ensuring that children are safe and can reach their full potential: 'It's Everybody's Job to Make sure that I'm alright' (Scottish Executive, 2002). This includes, for example friends, family, neighbours, community service providers, sports coaches and shopkeepers as well as professionals such as social workers and doctors for whom this is their 'day job'. Personalisation is not just about individuals, or even families, but about the role of the wider community. Like child protection, it is 'everybody's job'.
In Section 1 we explored the Human Rights Act 1998 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Both set out individual rights, including, in Sara's case her right to:
- P rovision e.g. of health and education
- P rotection from harm
- P articipation in decision-making (appropriate to age and stage)
The UNCRC underpins legislation about children in Scotland, providing the principles upon which professionals engaging with children must work. The central principle is that children's welfare is paramount. Any decision, whether taken a parent, grandparent, family friend, social worker, GP or teacher should safeguard and promote the child's welfare. This is true of any decisions about personalised services, including self-directed support.
The Social Care (Self-directed Support) Act 2013 says that parents ultimately have responsibility for making decisions about self-directed support to children who are under 16. Once young people are over 16 they are able to take their own decisions about self-directed support. However, we should not expect that to be without support. Most parents still have an active role in the lives of over 16 year olds, and indeed, still have a legal responsibility to guide their child with decision-making. Young people in the transition between child and adulthood are likely to continue to need support with directing their own care, including, for example, access to advocacy, information and advice services (see also Section 5 ). Local authorities may also have continuing legal responsibilities for a young person's welfare well into early adulthood, e.g. if the young person is looked after by the local authority.
This part of the course is quite 'information heavy'. This is because when we think about risk it is important to understand people's rights and responsibilities in law and to understand how these affect decision-making about children's welfare. Now let's move on to thinking about making decisions about risk in practice.