CHILDREN’S LAUREATE URGES NEXT UK GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS THREE INEQUALITIES HARMING CHILDREN

In the UK thousands of children can’t claim British citizenship due to extortionate costs; child refugees are denied the right to family reunion; school libraries continue to close.

As he steps down as Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell highlights human rights concerns and calls on next government to address them.

Warning comes ahead of new book and theatre collaboration celebrating human rights for children.

Chris Riddell, UK Waterstones Children’s Laureate and Amnesty Ambassador, has raised concerns about children’s rights in the UK in a final statement before handing over his laureateship on 7 June, a day ahead of the General Election.

In a statement, Riddell has called on the next government to urgently address three human rights issues that affect children in the UK:

  • Thousands of children living in the UK are prevented from accessing their rights to register as British citizens simply because they and their families cannot afford the near £1,000 profit-making fee; 
  • Child refugees are the only refugees that the UK government denies family reunion, preventing their chances of overcoming the trauma of escaping conflict and rebuilding their lives in a new country;
  • A lack of investment in school libraries has caused many to close around the country. 

Chris Riddell said:

“As the UK Children’s Laureate it has been a pleasure to celebrate human rights with children through projects such as ‘My Little Book of Big Freedoms’ and Chickenshed Theatre’s production of ‘Dreams of Freedom’.

“But as I step down as Laureate, and a new government is formed, I would like to voice some deep concerns.

“It can’t be right that thousands of children in this country are not registered for British citizenship because their parents cannot afford the high fee currently charged.

“Also, I am troubled by the policy that refuses child refugees – and only child refugees – the right to be reunited with their families.

“Finally, the continuing closure of libraries in our communities and schools is a blight on the intellectual development and creative future of all our children.

“At the end of my Laureateship, I’d like to urge our future government to address these issues urgently.”

Riddell became an ambassador for Amnesty International UK last year. Amnesty has been campaigning for the expansion of family reunion to children, and for provisions to be put in place to support children to access their right to register as British citizens, including through the removal of the profit-making aspect of the registration fee. 

Riddell has championed human rights during his time as Children’s Laureate, and today’s intervention comes ahead of two new projects he has worked on with Amnesty that will celebrate human rights for children:

  • New book launch – on 22 June, a new colour, hard back edition of My Little Book of Big Freedoms, an illustrated version of the Human Rights Act by Chris Riddell, will be published in partnership with Amnesty.
  • New Chickenshed theatre collaboration– on 26 June, Chris Riddell will be joining 600 school children on stage at the Royal Albert Hall who are performing their interpretation of Amnesty’s illustrated children’s book ‘Dreams of Freedom’. Chris and 9-year-old Jude will be live drawing throughout the performance, with their illustrations projected to the whole of the Hall.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK said:

“Amnesty is delighted that the Children’s Laureate has done so much to make human rights fun for children. The right to laugh, to draw, to read and play are just some of the freedoms that we should all be able to enjoy and treasure. No matter what our age, it is important we learn about the rights that keep us safe, so that we can protect them.

“It is devastating that many children living in the UK don’t have access to the rights that should be there to keep them from harm. I sincerely hope the new government listens to Chris Riddell’s warning and takes action before more children’s lives are threatened.”

 

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