Peers grant extended powers to children’s commissioner in England.

    The children’s commissioner for England has been given greater
    independence under changes made to the Children Bill by
    peers.

    As expected, the new measures will enable the commissioner to hold
    an inquiry into a child’s individual case if it could raise issues
    of public policy relevant to other children (news, page 6, 17
    June).

    Although the commissioner must consult the education secretary
    beforehand, he or she will have the final say on whether an inquiry
    will be held. The commissioner will also be able to initiate
    inquiries into non-devolved matters elsewhere in the UK as long as
    it does not duplicate the work of another body.

    Other new powers will allow the commissioner to help a child to
    bring legal proceedings where they would otherwise be unable to do
    so.

    Amendments adding youth offending teams to the list of “relevant
    partners” with which the proposed children’s services authorities
    must cooperate and the list of members of the proposed Local
    Safeguarding Children Boards were also passed.

    Further amendments were being discussed in the House of Lords as
    Community Care went to press, including a ban on
    smacking.

    Meanwhile, Gloucestershire Council is calling for a new register
    for private foster children and carers – despite its own work being
    used as proof in the House of Lords that monitoring operation of
    the notification scheme is enough.

    In a letter to Baroness Ashton, Gloucestershire head of children
    and families services Darren Shaw said a requirement that private
    foster carers must be assessed, approved and registered was “the
    most effective way of ensuring that children and young people are
    protected and that their needs are identified”.

    Ashton highlighted the council’s success in increasing the number
    of legal notifications from private foster carers with placements
    from six to 50 in two and a half years as proof that a national
    registration scheme was unnecessary.

    Under the law, private foster carers have a duty to inform their
    council of placements. The Children Bill contains a
    time-limited power to enable a formal registration scheme for
    private foster carers to be established – but only if other
    measures in the bill to strengthen the existing notification scheme
    fail.

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