Child impact statements: protecting children's interests in policy and provision?

Publication Date01 Dec 2007
AuthorCarmel Corrigan
SubjectEducation,Health & social care,Sociology
1Freelance researcher
and part-time
employee of the
Warren House Group
at Dartington, UK
Journal of Childrens Services
Volume 2 Issue 4 December 2007
© Pavilion Journals (Brighton) Ltd
Child impact statements are a tool for assessing the potential impact of policy, provision, legislation etc
on children. Although now predominantly based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),
the concept preceded this Convention. This article is based on a literature review and a series of face-to-
face and telephone interviews with relevant Irish civil and public servants and NGOs. It sets out the
rationale for child impact statements and the experience of using them in Sweden, the UK, Flanders and
Ireland, before highlighting the strengths and weaknesses in existing models. It then presents a number
of difficulties with the approach as a means of improving children’s well-being and argues that there is
insufficient evidence to support their widespread introduction as a primary means of achieving positive
policy outcomes for children.
Key words
children; impact statement; impact assessment; policy; rights
Policy impact assessment has become increasingly
common in Irish social policy debates over the past
two decades. The Government is encouraged, and in
some cases required, to consider ex ante the impact
of its policy proposals, provisions, legislation and so
on against a growing list of issues. These include
poverty, health, rurality, the environment and equality
(on the grounds of gender, race, religion, ethnicity,
age, membership of the traveller community, sexual
orientation, disability and family status). More
recently, the extension of impact assessment to
policy and provision relating either directly or
indirectly to children has arisen in the context of
Ireland’s National Children’s Strategy (Government of
Ireland, 2000). But what model should be adopted
and why, and how is it best to implement it? This
article examines the nature, rationale and origins of
child impact assessment. It then draws out the
lessons to be garnered from experience in Ireland in
other areas of policy and from experience in other
countries in relation to children. It also describes
child impact assessment work undertaken to date in
Ireland. The article concludes by considering whether,
on the available evidence, child impact assessment
should be pursued.
Child impact statements
It is important at the outset to note the lack of clarity
in the language used in the various debates and very
limited literature on policy impact assessment. The
term ‘impact statement’ is rarely used but is largely
seen to be interchangeable with terms such as
‘policy-proofing’ and ‘impact assessment’.
According to Bonwitt (2001), impact assessment is
designed to improve the quality of information
available to decision-makers. While recognising that
they will be influenced by more than professional
opinion and information, he argues that it is important
that decision-makers fully understand the
Child impact statements:
protecting children’s interests
in policy and provision?
Carmel Corrigan1

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