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New legislation recommended to create an independent Children's Commissioner

Date:7 DEC 2010

ChildrenA review of the role of the Children's Commissioner for has recommended making the office independent from Government.  

The review report, by John Dunford, the former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, recommends that the role of Children's Commissioner should be strengthened and have greater independence from government, by reporting directly to parliament rather than just the Department for Education.

Mr Dunford also recommended that the Children's Rights Director for England should be dissolved into the role of the Children's Commissioner in order to enhance its remit and save money.

Following concerns that the Commissioner was not effective, in July 2010 the Government announced that there would be an independent review of the office, role and functions of the Children's Commissioner for England.  In particular it aimed to look at whether the remit set out in the 2004 legislation was too limited and whether there is an issue with the credibility of the Commissioner with Government and other policy makers.

The UK is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and England needs a Commissioner with adequate powers in order to meet its obligations under this Convention.

The Children's Legal Centre has welcomed the review report. Professor Carolyn Hamilton, director of the Children's Legal Centre and former senior legal adviser to the Children's Commissioner said: "The Children's Legal Centre has campaigned for many years to create an independent and powerful voice to protect and promote children's rights and we are pleased to see these views finally accepted.

"A Commissioner for Children cannot promote children's rights effectively unless it is independent. The Office of the Children's Commissioner should not have to have its work plan agreed by the Government, nor be limited on the areas in which it works by the government department sponsoring it."

Professor Hamilton added: "If the Commissioner is to be effective he or she must have the power to investigate and examine areas of policy and practice which on the face of it violate children's rights freely."