Why is it important to understand our rights?
We all have rights.
When we talk about rights, we mean our rights to:
- Do things, like be involved in decisions about ourselves
- Have things, like food, housing and healthcare
- Be treated in a certain way, like to be protected from abuse
It's important to understand what your rights are so you can make sure you're being treated fairly, and that you have the protection and support you need.
We need more awareness of our rights. We hear about adult's rights but not about rights for young people.
We all share lots of the same rights, but we also have some different rights depending on our age and our needs. You might not realise it, but rights are a part of your everyday life.
These are just some of the rights you have:
- Everywhere – you have the right to your own beliefs or religion and the right to be protected from violence and abuse.
- At home – you have the right to a standard of living, such as money, food and housing that meets your needs.
- At school or college – you have the right to education even if you don't go to school, you're in hospital or youth custody.
- At work – you have the right to breaks, time off for holidays and to be kept safe.
- When receiving care – you have the right to the best possible healthcare and the right to have your personal information kept private by professionals.
If you live in England – you can find out more about the different rights you might have on the Law Stuff website.
If you live in Wales – you can find out more on The Children's Legal Centre website.
Sometimes you might have slightly different rights if:
- You're in care or have been in the past. If you live in England, you can find more information on the Coram Voice or Become websites. If you live in Wales, go to the Voices from Care Cymru website.
- You're an unaccompanied asylum seeker. If you live in England, you can find more information on the Law Stuff website. If you live in Wales, visit the Children's Legal Centre website.
Rights come from lots of different places. Understanding where they come from can help you to find out what to do if they're being ignored. They mostly come from:
- Laws. Most of our laws come from the UK and Welsh Government. These say what people in the UK can and can't do and what support they should have. They also say what people or organisations have responsibilities for us.
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC). This is a set of standards we follow in the UK that lists the rights that every child should have. These include the right to relax and play, to express yourself freely and to have an education. The Unicef website has more information about the UNCRC.
- Policies and guidelines. All professionals, like your doctor, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) team, teachers and social workers, follow strict sets of rules. These are not laws, but say how professionals should act and how you they should treat you.
You have lots of rights to do with your mental health. Here are some of the areas covered:
- Your right to confidentiality
- Your right to support in education
- Your right to be involved in decisions about you
- Your right to not be discriminated against
- Your rights when you're in hospital
- Your right to complain
An advocate is someone who can listen to you and help make sure your voice is heard in decisions about you.
In some situations, you will have a right to have an advocate. This is called statutory advocacy.
Even if you don’t have a right to an advocate, there are other types of advocacy that can support you to get your voice heard.
See our page on advocacy for more information.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
This is a document that sets out how an organisation will act in certain situations. For example, a transition policy should explain how an organisation will manage a young person leaving their services.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
These are services that support young people with their mental health.
You might see them called different names sometimes, but they offer the same type of services for young people:
- In Wales, they're called Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (SCAMHS)
- In England or Wales, you might also hear them called Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS)
Find out more in our CAMHS information hub.
This information was published in May 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.