England’s first children’s commissioner has a confession: he is not truly independent. Giving evidence to parliament’s joint committee on human rights this week, Professor Al Aynsley-Green admitted what many in the sector have long-suspected: that being accountable to the education secretary affects his independence.
Children’s charities and industry bodies fought long and hard when the Children Bill was going through parliament to give the role of children’s commissioner for England true independence and the necessary investigative powers. They were largely unsuccessful.
The government has remained adamant throughout that the role is “entirely independent of government”, despite the commissioner being unable to investigate individual cases unless directed to by the education secretary or unless she or he agrees they raise wider issues of relevance – although, even then, resources are an issue. Perhaps, finally, the government will sit up and listen and admit it was wrong.
When Every Child Matters was published, we were promised “an independent champion for children”. The government has not delivered on that promise. It is now time to revisit the Children Act 2004 and make the children’s commissioner role accountable to parliament, not a single department.
Aynsley-Green demands freer role from government and more money