Children’s charity makes history with UNICEF UK award

Amad exercising his right to play at Acorns in the Black Country

Acorns Children’s Hospice continues to make history as the first hospice in Britain ever to win a UNICEF UK ‘Gold’ award for its work to protect children’s rights.

The prestigious accolade recognises the charity’s commitment to ensuring the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child remains firmly at the core of its culture, planning, policies and practice. Emma Aspinall, Director of Care at Acorns, said:

“We are extremely proud and honoured to become the first-ever hospice in Britain to receive a Gold Rights Respecting Award from UNICEF UK. 

“Children and families have always been at the very heart of everything we do at Acorns and the Rights of the Child are at the forefront of our thinking and are deeply embedded across all of our services. 

“As Duty Bearers, colleagues across Acorns are passionate advocates for ensuring children access these rights, by promoting choice and creating safe spaces and opportunities for children and young people to be heard and to feel valued. And it shows – together, we’ve created meaningful change.” 

The UN Convention’s 54 articles cover all aspects of a child’s life and set out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. It also explains how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights.

Acorns began its partnership with UNICEF UK in 2019 and became the first non-school organisation to join its Rights Respecting Award programme, receiving the Bronze accolade in 2020 and Silver award in 2021. 

The charity has dedicated UNICEF Champions at each of its three hospice sites, delivering a range of activities to engage and educate children and young people on children’s rights, with both service users and their siblings aware of their rights and empowered to have a voice.

In their review, UNICEF assessors remarked how it was ‘evident that children’s rights are embedded across Acorns hospices and underpin every facet of hospice life’. The report outlined how the charity’s strategic approach to embed the rights has resulted in ‘staff who are passionate advocates for ensuring children have access to their rights’. 

It also recognised how the rights of their child and convention articles are a ‘common language used across the hospices’, with Acorns creating a ‘strong culture of inclusivity where the values of dignity and respect are key to the hospice experience’. 

Assessors praised Acorns ‘strong focus on health and wellbeing within the context of rights so that services users and their parents or carers feel supported’. 

They also commended how ‘children’s voices are valued highly and are proactively sought’, with the focus on children’s rights ‘enhancing ways they can put their suggestions forward and for these to be acted upon’. Emma added:

“This report recognises the hard work and incredible efforts of everyone at Acorns to ensure that we are ambassadors for children’s rights in all we do. 

“We are excited to continue our Rights Respecting journey to maintain this high standard and do all we can to further our work to promote choice and opportunities for all children and young people to be heard, make choices and thrive.” 

Acorns Children’s Hospice provides specialist palliative care for life limited and life threatened children and support for their families. In the past year the charity has cared for more than 700 children and almost 1,000 families, including those who are bereaved.

It cost Acorns £27,000 per day to provide its lifeline care and support, the bulk of which comes from fundraising and donations.

The UNICEF UK Rights Respecting initiative is aimed at schools across the UK. The awards are granted to organisations that show commitment to promoting and realising children’s rights and encouraging adults, children and young people to respect the rights of others.

Gold is given to organisations that have fully embedded the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into its ethos. Acorns joins more than 630 schools across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales that have achieved Gold.

To find out more about Acorns and the charity’s commitment to the UN Convention for Children’s Rights, you can visit


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