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Children’s Wellbeing and Children’s Rights in Tension?

In: The International Journal of Children's Rights
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  • 1 School of Social & Political Science and Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, , UK, k.tisdall@ed.ac.uk
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Children’s wellbeing has moved from an academic field of interest to a policy and practice framework, internationally and in many countries. Children’s wellbeing tends to be twinned casually with children’s rights but recent Scottish legislation – the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 – has put children’s rights and children’s wellbeing in tension. This provides an opportunity to consider the concepts critically. The article scrutinises parliamentary debates and accompanying submissions, to reveal that children’s rights arguments failed due to political concerns about litigation and a lack of evidence that children’s rights improved children’s lives. Children’s wellbeing arguments were more successful, as children’s wellbeing continues the familiar trajectory of a needs-based approach. It has additional benefits of maximising outcomes, emphasising early intervention and prevention, and statistical development. It also risks being apolitical and professionally-driven, with no minimum standards and limited recourse for children’s and their families’ rights and complaints. These findings raise broader questions about how to argue for children’s rights in national and global contexts where children’s wellbeing has ever-increasing prominence, fuelled by calls for evidence-based policy and accountability via outcomes.

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