The lack of investment in school libraries is a “blight on the intellectual development and creative future of all our children”, children's laureate Chris Riddell has said, as he calls on the next government to urgently address children’s rights issues.
In a final statement before handing over his laureateship on 7th June, a day before the General Election, Riddell has raised concerns about human rights issues affecting children in the UK, including lack of investment in school libraries, child refugees being denied family reunion and parents being unable to afford the high fee associated with registering as a British citizen.
“As I step down as Laureate, and a new government is formed, I would like to voice some deep concerns", Riddell said. "It can’t be right that thousands of children in this country are not registered for British citizenship because their parents cannot afford the high fee currently charged. Also, I am troubled by the policy that refuses child refugees – and only child refugees – the right to be reunited with their families. Finally, the continuing closure of libraries in our communities and schools is a blight on the intellectual development and creative future of all our children. At the end of my Laureateship, I’d like to urge our future government to address these issues urgently.”
Riddell became an ambassador for Amnesty International UK last year. Amnesty has been campaigning for the expansion of family reunion to children, and for provisions to be put in place to support children to access their right to register as British citizens, including through the removal of the "profit-making" aspect of the registration fee.
Riddell has championed human rights during his time as children’s laureate, and this intervention comes ahead of two new projects he has worked on with Amnesty that will celebrate human rights for children including the launch of My Little Book of Big Freedoms, an illustrated version of the Human Rights Act by Riddell, which will be published in partnership with Amnesty, and a New Chickenshed theatre collaboration, which will see Riddell join 600 school children on stage at the Royal Albert Hall to perform their interpretation of Amnesty’s illustrated children’s book Dreams of Freedom.
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Amnesty is delighted that the children’s laureate has done so much to make human rights fun for children. The right to laugh, to draw, to read and play are just some of the freedoms that we should all be able to enjoy and treasure. No matter what our age, it is important we learn about the rights that keep us safe, so that we can protect them.
“It is devastating that many children living in the UK don’t have access to the rights that should be there to keep them from harm. I sincerely hope the new government listens to Chris Riddell’s warning and takes action before more children’s lives are threatened.”
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