Children with health issues are being turned away from local doctors’ surgeries because their parents can’t afford the fees – with one mum and child being shown the door for being as little as £3 short.
The revelation came from Children’s Commissioner Deborah McMillan as she issued an urgent call for "political decisions" to be made to address legal gaps endangering children’s welfare.
They were exposed in a recent 174-page report compiled by Simon Hoffman and Sally Sellwood at Swansea University’s Observatory on Human Rights of Children, which examined how far local laws comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which Jersey ratified in 2014.
Pictured: Deborah McMillan, the Children's Commissioner.
The Commissioner welcomed the report, saying it provided “an accurate map”.
“It illuminates the areas of our statute which we can already chalk up as ‘wins’ in our journey along the continuum of compliance, and it also exposes those parts of the Island’s legislation that are most in need of attention,” she said.
As she explained, current laws and policies are currently harming children, because they stipulate that access to health, housing or income support is based on the parents’ situation.
“We are seeing children’s health being harmed because the children’s parents can’t pay,” Mrs McMillan said.
“Children are being turned away from doctor’s surgeries. I have heard of one case where one mum only had £7 and she was turned away because they did not have the tenner. I do not know anyone that would think that it’s acceptable.”
Pictured: The Legislative Gap Analysis provides a "map" of where the law is currently failing children.
The Children’s Commissioner, who has publicly appealed to the Government to make GP consultations free for all under-18s, said that this has caused some conditions to get worse because children couldn’t see a doctor.
Propositions to introduce free healthcare for children and those on income support were however rejected earlier this year in the States Assembly.
“Some children do not tell their parents they are unwell because they know they would struggle to pay,” she said. “Some do not want to go and tell mum and dad what they are going through, but they should be able to get to their doctor in their own right.
“The children’s right to privacy is undermined because someone has got to pay.”
Mrs McMillan said the issue is similar when it comes to the Social Security and housing law. As it stipulates that income support is based on adult eligibility, children may be deprived of what they need.
“Article 26 of the United Convention on the Rights of the Child says children should be supported by the Government, but it depends on the adult and whether they have lived here long enough,” she said.
Pictured: Children are being denied access to housing because their parents are not eligible.
“The legislation around access to income support and housing needs to be about the need and vulnerability rather than the status in the island and entitlement.
“The island has to manage the resources it has, but when we are talking about the children in those families, if a child is growing up in a property in a poor standard of living, that is not acceptable.”
Mrs McMillan said that the UNCRC is legally binding and requires the Government to make “political decisions” to introduce free healthcare for children or free school meals, while also addressing other issues such as the age of criminal responsibility, 10, which the Commissioner is too low.
“They are choosing to deny those rights,” she said.
“Compliance is on a continuum,” the Commissioner added. “Countries should progressively achieve compliance. The committee will be expecting this progressive realisation. They will want the government to make the decision.”
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