Hodge dilutes champion’s role.

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge has succeeded in watering down
the children’s commissioner for England’s proposed role.

Hodge won her bid to have five references to the word “rights”
removed from the description of the commissioner’s role in the
Children Bill in its committee stage last week.

One of her amendments alters the commissioner’s proposed role from
promoting and safeguarding the rights of children in England to
promoting awareness of their views.

However, Hodge denied that the government had “gone timid on
rights”, highlighting its acceptance of an amendment to the bill in
the House of Lords stating that the commissioner must have regard
to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child in
their work.

She said that the government wanted the commissioner to consider
the wider policies and interests of children and reflect them in
government and society rather than getting “bogged down” in
“policing children’s individual rights” like the commissioner for

But Scottish children’s commissioner Kathleen Marshall said that
the government’s argument was “difficult to follow” as she didn’t
have an individual complaints remit but that her role was still
rights based.

Labour MP Hilton Dawson said he was “sad and shocked” by the
government’s amendments removing the word rights. He added that
every other commissioner in the world had a focus on children’s
rights and that he was concerned that the changes to the role could
mean that the English commissioner would be unable to join the
European Network of Ombudspersons for Children like the other
commissioners. The organisation’s annual meeting was held in
Cardiff last week.

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