Thirty years on from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, much more still needs to be done to protect children, improve their health and involve them in the services they use.
That’s the view of Professor Andrew Rowland, Consultant in Children’s Emergency Medicine at North Manchester Care Organisation and Honorary Professor in the School of Health and Society at the University of Salford.
He has recently published a new study summarising his work for children over the last five years, Life on the tracks. This follows on from his 2014 study, Living on a Railway Line, which reported on his work after being awarded a Winston Church Memorial Trust Fellowship to investigate the impact of mandatory reporting of child abuse, the work of children’s advocacy centres and strategies to identify children at risk of child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Professor Rowland has continued that work since then with a tireless campaign to improve the lives of children and young people.
He said: “2019 marks the 30th anniversary of that UN Convention yet there are still countries around the world where the rights of children are not as developed as they ought to be in modern society, and where children do not receive the protection from their State that they need, they are entitled to and they deserve.
“The launch of Living on a Railway Line sparked a programme of work resulting in national and international policy changes and initiatives.
“This follow-up report is called Life on the tracks as it remains the case that some children around the world are physically living beside railway tracks, with all of the dangers this poses, and other children have their lives metaphorically travelling along those tracks, already in danger or heading towards severe danger, and therefore always deserving and often requiring a protective intervention to their lives in some way.”
Among Professor Rowland’s work in the latest report is his launch of the charity, SicKids. This provides Sensory Spaces for children in hospitals and clinics in Cambodia and the North West of England (including at the Northern Care Alliance’s North Manchester, Oldham and Salford Care Organisations), delivers medical support to vulnerable children living in Cambodia, and develops skills and experience among health care professionals.
He travels to South West Cambodia twice a year to run outreach medical clinics and has set up a professional exchange programme between Cambodia and the North West of England. His next visit in November 2019 will also involve three other UK volunteers – a GP, a physiotherapist and a speech and language therapist – all local to Manchester. They will run a series of clinics in partnership with health workers in Cambodia.
Professor Rowland’s international collaborations include a joint project involving the children’s emergency department at North Manchester General Hospital, the University of Salford and colleagues in Australia and the USA which has called for changes in the law to give equal protection to children from physical assault and to prohibit physical punishment of children in the UK.
Legislation has now been approved in Scotland and the Welsh government is expected to follow suit soon.
His research with colleagues in Australia and the UK on the law surrounding reporting of female genital mutilation (FGM) has prompted proposals for the appointment of an anti-FGM commissioner in the UK.
Life on the tracks also includes Professor Rowland’s contributions to the British Medical Association and World Medical Association’s policies on safeguarding children, and to international standards of care for children in emergency departments.