The Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, Al Aynsley-Green (pictured), will explore the case for increased funding, powers and independence, as part of a five-year strategy launched today.
The plan says that Aynsley-Green’s office – now officially rebranded as 11 Million, to reflect the number of children in England – had set itself challenging long-term goals “that may not be possible within our current budget”.
It also re-iterates the inferior position of Aynsley-Green in relation to counterparts in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, who have a duty to protect and promote children’s rights, rather than merely raise awareness of their interestrs and views.
The plan says 11 Million will explore whether its ability to improve children’s rights is constrained by this mandate, while it also raises question marks over its independence from government given its constitutional status as a non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Education and Skills.
It says: “We would like to clarify our relationship further to ensure we are seen as independent of government, able to talk of their shortcomings where it is appropriate.”
The proposals echo calls from Aynsley-Green to be made accountable to parliament, not government, and for more funding, in an appearance before parliament’s joint committee on human rights in October last year.
The strategy says 11 Million will spend 2007-8 focusing on six areas of children’s lives, including mental health, youth justice and asylum, and measure the rights of England’s children against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.