Penelope Leach backs NSPCC babies' rights campaign

Liz Roberts
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The NSPCC is calling for babies' rights to be better protected under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as part of its 'All Babies Count' campaign.

The call has won backing from renowned child development expert Penelope Leach, who has written a paper ‘Babies are people – all people have rights, so what about babies’ rights?

Dr Leach said, ‘Rights for babies will be a new idea to a lot of people and a silly idea to some.’

‘But universal recognition of the rights of people who are under one or two years old is both important and urgent. Important because human rights matter just as much (or more if that is possible) to very young, rapidly developing infants as to older children, adolescents or adults. Urgent because this youngest age-group is the most vulnerable to neglect and abuse and currently the most likely to die at the hands of parents, step-parents or ‘carers’.

Dr Leach points out that one reason for the tendency to ignore babies’ rights is that ‘babies themselves tend to be ignored – or cooed over as if they were puppies not people… babies are seen – if they are seen at all – as appendages or extensions or burdens of their mothers, or as school-children in the making.’

She said that research showing that the left brain developed faster than the right brain meant that early years practitioners should concentrate on social and emotional development rather than cognitive in children’s first 18 months.

The UNCRC had its 20th anniversary in December 2011, and the NSPCC is calling on Government and other organisations to review how it could work more effectively for babies. ‘The UNCRC has been a powerful lever for change,’ said Chris Cuthbert, head of strategy and development, ‘but there are still areas where rights are infringed.’

The five-month ‘All Babies Count’ campaign is aiming to ‘raise awareness of the interests of babies and encourage preventative interventions that can make a difference,’ said Mr Cuthbert.

‘There is increasing need and demand for family support services, yet decreased resources. We need to work more smartly, redirect resources and think about prioritising infants.’

Staff in nurseries were at the forefront of recognising the needs of babies, he added, and should continue to champion the needs of babies and families to service commissioners.

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