Confusion fear over commissioner role

Giving the children’s commissioner for England powers in Wales,
Scotland and Northern Ireland will be confusing for children, MPs
were warned this week.

Welsh commissioner Peter Clarke told the House of Commons’
education and skills committee’s Every Child Matters inquiry that
children needed a “single figure” to turn to.

It is proposed that the commissioner for England would have some
responsibility for children outside England and be answerable to
Westminster. Scotland’s children’s commissioner, Kathleen Marshall,
described this as a “complicated mosaic”.

Special concern was raised for children in border areas, who may
live in one country but use services in another.

Clarke said he had achieved a “genuine change in policy” in
Wales as a result of being a single focus for children, but feared
the advent of the English commissioner would jeopardise this.

Although Northern Ireland children’s commissioner Nigel Williams
said the commissioners would “try to find the best solution”,
Clarke doubted that the problems could be resolved by talking
things through.

The national co-ordinator of the Children’s Rights Alliance for
England, Peter Newell, told the committee that there was less
specific focus on children in government now than there was five
years ago. He blamed the demise of the Children and Young People’s
Unit and the failure to develop an overarching strategy for

He added that having a department and a minister who covered
children and families rather than just children was a mistake.
“Including families means almost anyone in society,” he said.

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