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Website reviews

1 October 03

Reviews of websites offering legal advice to children and young people

by Iain Nisbet

www.lawscot.org.uk/childlaw

Without doubt, the best pages providing online legal advice for young people in Scotland are those of the Law Society of Scotland. The “legal info” is set out under 13 topic headings chosen for relevance and interest.

The language should be understandable to children from secondary school age. There is only an outline of the law on each topic, but still a wealth of information. Each page concludes with details of and links to organisations who can advise or help further.

An attractively designed and simple to navigate site, each page has a highly entertaining animation. Tremendous!

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www.youngscot.org/channels/law

Barely pipped at the post is Young Scot, a “national youth information portal” designed for a slightly older target audience. Although the site is quite busy, it has a bold colour scheme and is very easy to find your way around.

The topics covered have a more mature feel: driving offences; racial crimes and human rights; disability; and consumers. The language is again easy to follow and the high quality content advises what to do or how to respond in particular situations, e.g. “what if I am arrested by the police”. I was especially impressed by the “what’s in an age” section, which outlines minimum ages for various activities, from birth through to age 21.

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www.enquire.org.uk

Enquire is the Scottish Executive’s national advice and information service on special educational needs, run by the charity Children in Scotland (www.childreninscotland. org.uk). In the past year the site has improved exponentially both in look and content. There is basic information, advice on many areas where pupils may experience problems or difficulties, and relevant links. The site is available in an accessible text-only version.

The most useful information is in the form of downloadable PDF documents covering “life at school”, “taking part at school” and “leaving school”. There is a surprising amount of law  in these matters, and it is simplified and summarised well. Finally, the site invites views on future content.

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www.article12.org

Article 12 in Scotland is a youth-led organisation which promotes the rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the European White Paper on Youth. Article 12 UNCRC states (broadly) that children’s views must be taken into account when decisions are made about them. The website has a number of useful articles accurately setting out the extent to which these rights are currently put into practice in Scotland and Europe  while campaigning for further implementation.

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www.scottishyouthparliament.org.uk

The Scottish Youth Parliament has around 200 elected “MSYPs” and discusses current issues with the hope of influencing public policy. This site has a quiet discussion board, but also a selection of high quality briefing papers.

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www.scotland.gov.uk/library/documents/youfc.htm

“You Matter” is a magazine of useful legal information for children and young people. You can still find it in print some places or print it off from here (using a lot of colour ink). It covers in great detail the rights of  a child in a family law action, making good use of practical examples. It was written by the Scottish Child Law Centre, whose own website (www.sclc.org.uk) I am assured will be up and running soon(ish).

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www.edlaw.org.uk

The website of the Education Law Unit (where I work), though not designed for use by children, has leaflets on various legal topics written for children with special educational needs. These are downloadable in alternative languages, in audio format and in sign language video. In view of my conflict of interest readers are invited to view the site and award their own stars.