Leadbetter calls for children`s commissioner in England

Directors leader Mike Leadbetter has thrown his weight behind
the idea of a children’s commissioner for England in oral evidence
to the joint committee on human rights, writes Ruth

Leadbetter, who is president of the Association of Directors of
Social Services, said that he would opt for a children’s
commissioner in preference to either a minister for children, or a
specialist within the proposed new human rights commission.

A children’s commissioner would have a clear responsibility to
keep children’s needs at the top of the agenda, he told the House
of Commons committee, which is considering whether a human rights
commission should be set up for the UK.

He also suggested that the post would provide a fulcrum for
debate around the issues raised by recent child deaths, including
Sarah Payne and Victoria Climbie. He said the focus of debate
around children and child protection should rest with the
commissioner, rather than with newspapers such as the ‘News of the

Leadbetter told the panel that it was still too early to assess
the success of the Welsh children’s commissioner’s post. Although
he acknowledged that the alternatives were viable, he expressed
concern that the specialist children’s human rights commissioner
would be delayed while the rest of the body is set up. A minister
for children would need an exclusive remit without other
ministerial responsibilities, he warned, if they were to put
children’s needs first.

Leadbetter told the committee that a children’s commissioner
would need quite significant powers to force agencies, councillors
and individuals to act in the best interests of children. He also
called for the commissioner to grant powers for child protection
agencies to enter private premises and homes, arguing: “There needs
to be a recognition that the sanctity of the family takes second
place to the protection of children.”

He also admitted that had social work departments been prepared
for a deluge of claims under the human rights act when it first
arrived – fears which had proved unfounded, he said. But he also
said he “had been a little disappointed” that staff were not using
human rights legislation more often to ensure that children were







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