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EU Referendum result, 29/06/16 [W/E/NI/S]

Following the EU referendum, every effort must be made to protect and promote children’s rights. Children in Wales and other children’s umbrella organisations across the UK’s four nations are calling on governments and European Union to:

  • protect the rights of children and young people;
  • ensure that children and young people are meaningfully involved in decisions that will shape the future of the UK and the EU and
  • mitigate any negative impact that the result may have on children, young people and families from other European countries who currently live in the UK.

The work of Children in Wales is underpinned by the rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), along with an ethos to work collaboratively with partners throughout Europe as active members of the pan-European advocacy network Eurochild.

Under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and young people have the right to participate in decisions that affect them. The UK ratified the UNCRC in 1991.  There is therefore an obligation on governments to ensure these rights are realised for all children in the UK and to support international cooperation for the realisation of children’s rights across the world. Welsh Government also passed the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011.

Despite the fact that young people across the UK are able to get married, join the armed forces and be in full-time employment, 16 and 17 year olds, were denied the right to have their say in the most important decision of recent times – one that will have far-reaching consequences for their future. Throughout the UK it is reported that 75% of voters aged 18-24 voted to remain in the EU.

In order to have active and engaged citizens, it is vital that all governments proactively engage with children and young people immediately to prevent potential disengagement and disenfranchisement. They must ensure that every policy and legislative decision made from this point onwards helps to address the concerns of these young people. It is now imperative that the voices of all children and young people are heard loudly and clearly at such a crucial time in shaping the future of our country, and indeed the EU.

The long-term impact of this decision on European families who have made their home in Wales and other parts of the UK remains to be seen. However there have already been reports of citizens being subject to racist and xenophobic abuse. Hate crime has no place in our society and is completely unacceptable. This message must be communicated widely, clearly and definitively. All children should have the opportunity to grow up happy, healthy and confident – and recognised as individual rights holders.

The UK electorate’s vote to leave the EU opens a period of uncertainty and instability on both sides of the Channel. While attention will clearly focus on reassuring the markets and stabilising the economy, Eurochild argues that our political leadership must also address growing inequality and disaffection in our societies. Children in Wales and our membership networks agree wholeheartedly with this view as do our partners Children in Scotland, Children in Northern Ireland and Children England. Dangerous levels of social division are prevalent across Europe. This is toxic to our democracies. If politicians are serious about bridging that divide, children’s rights and the fight against child poverty must take centre stage.

With respect to ending child poverty and promoting children’s wellbeing we broadly know what works. We can compare and contrast performance across countries, and identify effective policies and practices. The European Union itself has documented this analysis in a policy framework, its Recommendation on Investing in Children, which has achieved a consensus across civil society, academics and policymakers. We know we need a long-term approach, with balanced attention to financial resources and service provision. Critically, children need to be recognised as agents of change, not passive recipients of support.

Wherever the negotiations lead us, it is children and young people who have the greatest stake in our countries’ future. Children are not future citizens, they are citizens now and they will face the consequences of decisions over which they have little or no influence. It is time for politicians of all parties to unite around a common moral purpose of ending child poverty and working towards the realisation of children’s rights. Only then will we build truly inclusive societies where everybody has an equal opportunity to fulfil their potential.


To find out more about our work or to arrange an interview, please contact Catriona Williams OBE at catriona.williams@childreninwales.org.uk  or phone 029 2034 2434.


  1. Children in Wales is the national umbrella organisation for people who work with children and young people in Wales.  Our core aim is to contribute towards making the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) a reality in Wales. You can find details of our work at www.childreninwales.org.uk/our-work/ .
  2. You can access the full referendum results from the Electoral Commission website.