Behind the headlines

The Scottish executive has laid out the remit for the country’s
first children and young people’s commissioner. The commissioner
must safeguard and promote children’s rights, and can make
recommendations for action and initiate general investigations.
However, they will not have the power to investigate individual
cases. The commissioner will promote good practice and consider the
impact of all policies, initiatives, and legislation on children
and their families through the publication of a child impact
statement. They will also publish an annual report. The Scottish
executive’s Education, Culture and Sport Committee had actively
pursued the idea of a children’s commissioner. In March 2001 Wales
appointed Peter Clarke as the first children’s commissioner in the
UK. He has the power to scrutinise public bodies involving
children, including school and NHS facilities, and the Welsh
assembly. Despite many demands for it, England does not have an
overall children’s commissioner. Some councils have appointed their
own but they lack statutory powers.

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the

“The appointment of a commissioner for children’s rights could have
positive benefits, but I am concerned that the position could
become yet another token appointment unless there is clarity about
where children’s rights are being infringed and how the
commissioner will promote change. I hope the commissioner will also
address the issue of parental responsibility and put rights into
that context.”

Bill Badham, programme manager, Children’s

“On 19 September the UK government gives evidence on its treatment
of children, under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to
the Committee on the Rights of the Child. On 4 October the
committee publishes its findings. Look out for them. They will
applaud developments for a children’s champion in Wales, Scotland
and especially the excellent model proposed in Northern Ireland.
They will be baffled by the contrary statements from England, still
denying 11.3 million children the right to an independent and
statutory empowered children’s rights commissioner. Join the
movement. Add your weight to the campaign. E-mail today.”

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner,

“The absence of a commissioner for England baffles me. There is
some fantastic children’s rights work going on around the country,
and this needs support through the development of a children’s
commissioner post. One in three children in the UK live in poverty,
and thousands are socially excluded as well as being excluded from
education. This needs addressing via a body that will endeavour to
focus on the impact of policy development upon children and assist
in securing their rights.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“There is overwhelming support for the appointment of a
children’s rights commissioner for England. The regional
commissioners in England and the children’s rights director are
signs of the government’s commitment to children but they do not
reduce the need for an external independent children’s champion. No
other person can act as an independent watchdog for children on
legal and policy development. Action has been taken by Wales and
Scotland – England must follow. It cannot be acceptable for the
government to ignore the advice of its select committee and allow
England’s children to have a lesser voice.”

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
“The appointment of a commissioner in Scotland is a step
forward. The issue is whether the post will be used to advocate
children’s rights and create structures to allow children to
empower themselves, or whether it will lead to more of the
traditional anti-children policy followed by recent

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