The Defender of Rights advocates taking better account of children’s voices

“Today in France, the opinion of young people is not heard”: the Defender of rights, Claire Hédon, pleads in a report for a better consideration of the voice of children in society, urging adults to involve them in decision-making.

“The child’s right to participation, in the face of the extent of the damage caused by his defect, cannot be considered a luxury or a surplus. It must be understood as a necessity”, underlines the Defender of Rights in her report on the rights of the child.

The document, with 17 recommendations, is released on the occasion of the International Day of the Rights of the Child on Friday.

Claire Hédon and her deputy in charge of children’s rights, Éric Delemar, sought to “examine the conditions in which children are now able to express themselves” on the basis of the observation “that today in France, the ‘opinion of young people is not being heard “.

A national consultation launched with 2,200 children between the ages of four and 17 revealed that “70% of children did not know their rights, proof of a major lack of information dedicated to children”.

Based on the results of this survey, the Defender of Rights observes that at school, college or high school, “the children consulted are not satisfied with the existing collective expression frameworks”. This is the case, for example, with class councils where young people feel that their role “remains limited”.

The report recommends more broadly to consult children on bills and proposals having a “direct impact” on their daily lives and suggests relying on municipal councils or children’s parliaments, structures still deemed “too few” , “unknown” or even “inaccessible”.

Ms. Hédon also notes that the child’s right to be heard individually is “still not very effective”.

– Train professionals –

Within the school framework, the report recommends that the establishments ensure that the child is “able to express himself on the facts which are reproached to him before any decision of sanction against him”. In the case of the disciplinary councils, “families often consider that it is over in advance,” Eric Delemar noted to the press.

The word of children is not “systematically considered” during legal proceedings, according to the report, recalling that the judge is required to hear the child who requests it in a procedure which concerns him, unless the latter does not. considers that the child does not have the necessary discernment.

The Defender of Rights recommends that the Minister of Justice reform article 338-4 of the Code of Civil Procedure and repeal the criterion of discernment, assessed by the judge, so that “the hearing of the child who requests even to be heard within the framework of a procedure concerning him either of right “.

Among her other requests, Claire Hédon calls for the appointment of a national referent responsible for “listing and promoting” “existing good practices in child participation”. She also wants the structures welcoming children to equip themselves with “tools for evaluating their child participation systems and the collection of voices”.

Mr. Delemar also recalled the imperative of training professionals to “collect and welcome the word of the child”, an issue which according to him “does not suffer from any delay”.

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