Putting children's rights into practice

Deputy Leader of Cardiff Council and Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, Cllr Sarah Merry, shares the steps Cardiff Council is taking as it works towards international recognition by Unicef as one of the UK's first Child Friendly Cities

Since 2017, Cardiff - alongside four other cities and communities in the UK - has been working with Unicef UK and our partners towards international recognition as a Unicef Child Friendly City. 

This means placing the rights and voices of children and young people at the heart of our policies, strategies and services; involving them in decision making and addressing the barriers which limit their life chances.

Cardiff's commitment to becoming a Unicef Child Friendly City must be shaped by children and young people. Since the very beginning of our journey, they have worked with us so that we can find out where they think our priorities should lie. 

Based on what they've told us, we'll be prioritising the following three areas:  


Making sure Cardiff's schools embed child rights practices - where the voices of young people are heard and acted upon - will be front and centre of our ambitions to become a Child Friendly City. Developing skills for life is also at the heart of our approach. It has been estimated that nearly 2 in 3 children entering schools today will end up working in jobs that do not yet exist. As a Child Friendly City, children will leave school with the life skills they have told us they need in order to succeed, including the ability to make well-balanced decisions; managing personal finances; the ability to develop a healthy lifestyle; and how to maintain good social relationships. 

Family and Belonging

Our ambition is for Cardiff to be a place where all families are supported to be together and can enjoy activities around the city. 


Giving children the best start in life is a priority, and getting it right for families in the first 1000 days - from conception to their second birthday - is critical to achieving this aim. 

We are already seeing progress in all three of these areas: 

Over 30 of our schools have started their journey towards becoming Unicef UK Rights Respecting Schools. 

In May this year, we held our biggest car free event. Thousands of families were able to cycle in the city centre and enjoy a range of free family-friendly activities. 

A Street Play pilot programme has started, where residents can simply apply to close their roads on a monthly basis, to enable children to play safely in their streets. 

And finally, Cardiff has adopted a ‘Think Family' approach, making sure that public services are joined up and that children and families are given the right support, in the right way, at the right time in the first 1000 days of a child's life. Cardiff is also working toward Unicef UK Baby Friendly accreditation in maternity and community health services. 

We are at the beginning of our journey towards becoming a Unicef Child Friendly City, with a lot more to come. I, along with a third of my Councillor colleagues, have received training in children's rights from Unicef UK, with another round of training planned for the autumn. 

Through this work we can ensure that the voices of our children and young people are heard, which means the priorities we set as a city are informed by a diverse mix of interests and opinions, and are relevant and beneficial to all. 

About Child Friendly Cities & Communities 

Unicef UK's Child Friendly Cities & Communities programme works in partnership with local councils across the UK to help make cities and communities places where all children feel safe, heard, nurtured and able to flourish. 

Using the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as its guide, the programme works with political leaders, social workers, community organisations and more, to make sure the wishes and experiences of children shape the local systems and services that are there to support them. 

Child Friendly Cities is a global UNICEF programme. Launched in 1996 and active in 38 countries, the initiative supports cities and communities to put the human rights of children and young people at their heart, translating UNICEF's global mission into practical action at the local level. 

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