England’s children’s commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, is to launch an investigation in the autumn into child sexual exploitation.
The news was announced at the same time as the government launched a consultation on changes to Atkinson’s role.
Children and families minister Sarah Teather said the government had accepted the recommendations of John Dunford’s review that the commissioner should have more independence, influence and impact and that the post should be merged with that of the children’s rights director.
“We are listening to young people, and everyone working with children, on how we change the law,” Teather said. “We want to change the role to best suit the needs of children, particularly looked-after children and those who have just left the care system, as they do not have a parent or guardian to promote their rights and views.”
Atkinson said that, in 2011-12, her office would launch two major inquiries: one this month to investigate the patterns of school exclusions, the other in the autumn on sexual exploitation. It follows research from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency showing the issue to be more widespread than many social workers and councils believed.
Atkinson added that her role had had many successes in the past year. These included forcing the Ministry of Justice to review plans to allow media reporting of family court cases, ending routine strip searches of children in custody, and ensuring children’s voices were heard in the Munro Review of child protection.
“The views of children and young people were at the heart of our achievements last year, and their testimonies will continue to inform everything that we do,” Atkinson said.
“Our focus for the immediate future is to work with the Department for Education and the Children’s Rights Director to see Dr Dunford’s recommendations for a rights-based Children’s Commissioner for England come to fruition.
“To support this process, my office will submit a response to the government consultation on the new Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England.”
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