Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin drew attention to the problem that children's right to be heard is not always realised when decisions are made about school term and holiday times. The decisions are not always based on an adequate child rights impact assessment. Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin investigated the situation in Helsinki and Espoo on her own initiative.
Establishing children's opinions and assessing the impact on child rights is important. Decisions regarding school term and holiday times concern children in particular and affect the child's right to rest and recreation. However, the practices are not established and uniform.
- If children are only heard through youth parliaments, student unions or similar, their participation is not always secured in the manner required under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sakslin notes.
The UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child monitoring the convention has emphasised that the procedures in which children are heard must be open to all children.
The child's best interests must be a primarily consideration in all decisions concerning children. Child rights impact assessments help to determine what the child's bests interests are. When the assessment is carried out well, information is obtained on how the planned decision affects children's well-being and development overall and from different points of view. Assessments also increase the openness and pluralism of decision-making.
The full texts of Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin’s decisions no 6196/2017 (Espoo) and 6195/2017 (Helsinki) have been published (in Finnish) at www.oikeusasiamies.fi/en
Further information is available from legal adviser Virve Toivonen, tel. +358 9 432 3342.