The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has now been in place for over thirty years and is widely ratified. However, as the UNCRC is operationalised, a number of practical, conceptual and ethical issues have emerged. For example, questions arise concerning children’s capacity and competence to make autonomous decisions, their involvement in dispute resolution and the relationship between the rights of children and those of their parents. Particular challenges arise in realising the rights of younger children and those with significant disabilities. The papers in this special edition explore these issues in relation to the UK and the wider international context, and also in different fields of social policy.