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Children's Minister Sarah Teather has published draft clauses for forthcoming legislation to strengthen the role of the Office of the Children's Commissioner.
A Children and Families Bill, which was announced in the Queen's Speech in May, is expected to be introduced early in 2013. The draft legislation would create a new role for the Children's Commissioner, focused on promoting and protecting the rights of children, in line with the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the Government are a committed signatory. In order to carry out the role effectively, the Children's Commissioner would have powers to:
The draft legislation would make the Children's Commissioner more independent from Government and more directly accountable to Parliament, in particular through an annual report to Parliament that will allow for more effective scrutiny of the impact that the Children's Commissioner's activities have had on the promotion and protection of children's rights. The draft legislation also includes measures designed to make the Commissioner's business planning processes more transparent, by making it a requirement for the Commissioner to consult on his or her future priorities and to appoint an advisory board.
The functions of the children's rights director in Ofsted would also be incorporated within the remit of the Children's Commissioner, but with safeguards to ensure that the current levels of support provided were not diluted.
Under the draft legislation, the Children's Commissioner for England would retain responsibility for non-devolved matters, but would be able to delegate his or her powers of investigation to the Children's Commissioners in the devolved Administrations. The Children's Commissioner for England would also be required to consult the Children's Commissioners in the devolved Administrations before conducting an investigation on a non-devolved matter within their jurisdictions or across the UK.