Children’s commissioner to gain greater independence

The children’s commissioner for England is to be given
greater independence under a government amendment to the Children
Bill to be debated in the House of Lords this week,
writes Clare Jerrom.

Concerns had been raised that the commissioner, who will also
represent children elsewhere in the UK in relation to non-devolved
issues, would have less powers and independence than the
children’s commissioners in Scotland, Wales and Northern

The amendment, tabled by Sure Start minister Baroness Ashton,
states that where the commissioner is concerned that a
child’s case raises issues of public policy of relevance to
other children, he may initiate an inquiry.

However, he or she must still consult the secretary of state
beforehand and ensure the inquiry would not duplicate work carried
out elsewhere.

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge told the education and
skills committee last week that the amendment was proof the
government was listening to concerns raised during House of Lords
debates about whether the commissioner post was sufficiently
independent. However, she stressed that the commissioner would
still be prohibited from getting involved in individual complaints
as there was already a structured set of ombudsmen, tribunals and
courts to deal with that.

Andrew Cozens, president of the Association of Directors of
Social Services, welcomed the move but said there were still
further discussions to be had around the commissioner’s

Government amendments to bring youth offending teams into the
heart of the proposed children’s services reforms were also
tabled for debate.

These include adding Yots to the list of “relevant
partners” with which children’s services authorities
must co-operate to improve the well-being of children, and naming
them as members of the proposed Local Safeguarding Children’s

Although Hodge had not hidden the government’s desire for
Yots to be involved with children’s trusts, the original
draft of the bill did not include them as relevant partners and the
document published alongside the bill had suggested that their
inclusion in children’s trusts would be down to local

The Department for Education and Skills is also believed to have
accepted the argument for a single children’s services plan
covering all services in an area, rather than a plan covering just
education services.


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.