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

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

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

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

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

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