Children's Commissioner role to be reviewed

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Indy Politics

Ministers today announced a review of the role of the Children's Commissioner for England.

In a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS), Education Secretary Michael Gove said it had been five years since the first Commissioner took office, and the job had not been reviewed since.

There was "continued debate" about the remit of the post, Mr Gove said, and how it compared with similar roles in other countries.

The review is part of the coalition government's agreement to "increase accountability and review the cost of quangos", the WMS said.

In the statement Mr Gove added: "I agree with the broad consensus that it is now time to take stock of the office, role and functions of the Children's Commissioner for England through a detailed and considered review.

"This will provide an opportunity for the Government to consider the views of a wide range of partners on how government can best promote children's interests."

Dr Maggie Atkinson was appointed Children's Commissioner, succeeding Sir Al Aynsley-Green, in October last year.

Her appointment sparked a political row when then Schools Secretary Ed Balls was accused of picking a political supporter for the job after ignoring objections from a cross-party committee of MPs. Mr Balls rejected the claims.

The review will be led by Dr John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

Dr Dunford said: "I look forward to leading this important review into the role and functions of the Children's Commissioner.

"I will be looking with an open mind about the best way to give young people a voice and protect their rights. That is why it is important that I talk to young people themselves to hear their views about the best way to represent them.

"I will also be talking to a wide range of children's groups, people working in education and children's services, and looking at successful practices in other countries."

Asked if the review could lead to the abolition of the Commissioner's post, Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "That is not the purpose of this review. The purpose of this review is to look at it five years on and see if we can do things better."

The spokesman added: "We appreciate the work that the Children's Commissioner has done. It has been in operation for five years now.

"We are looking at quangos across the piece. This is a genuinely open review and open consultation. We are interested in listening to what stakeholders say about how it is operating and see what, if anything, we can do to improve it."

Dr Atkinson said: "I am delighted that the Government has stated today that it is committed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and that it believes it is vital that children and young people have a strong, independent advocate to champion their interests and to promote and protect their rights.

"I and staff at the Office of the Children's Commissioner agree with the Government that there is a need for someone to speak out on behalf of children when decisions are made that impact on their lives.

"We therefore welcome the independent review of the role and functions of the Children's Commissioner for England, as it provides the opportunity for us to explore the very best way for doing this."