Empowering children and young people: an access to justice assessment of mental health law and policy
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This thesis aims to comparatively assess the Irish government’s national, international and regional obligations to respect, protect and fulfil children’s access to justice rights under mental health law, policy and practice. It considers the importance of rights for children and why children should be viewed as rights-holders. It explores the Capability Approach, the sociology of childhood and a rights-based approach to children’s issues. This thesis considers the implications of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for the development of mental health laws from a child rights perspective. This research compiles and analyses the relevant human rights instruments and interpretive sources required for the selection of human rights standards and indicators for the development in this thesis of a Child Rights Access to Justice Impact Assessment (CRAJIA) tool. The CRAJIA tool is underpinned by respected methodological approaches and therefore the information gathered from its application in this thesis will provide research-based evidence as to whether children’s access to justice rights are being realised. A number of recommendations are made to improve the visibility of children and the impact of their rights when they are admitted for inpatient mental health care and treatment. This thesis proposes clear and positive improvements for the incorporation of a childfriendly justice framework in Irish mental health law and policy. It also outlines a five step process for children’s effective participation in decision-making and ten principles that should be considered in a best interests assessment. Incorporating the framework proposed in this thesis will ensure rights translate into practice, thus ensuring children are empowered and visible in decision-making processes affecting them.
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