Posted: 26 March 2013

We need a more powerful children’s commissioner


The children’s commissioner has a special position. This is a vital role charged with promoting the view of children and young people, making sure they are heard at all levels of government and in wider society. We know that if children are listened to and actively involved in the decisions that affect their lives, it improves their lives. 

That’s why we’re working with Unicef, NSPCC, Save the Children, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England and a host of other organisations to strengthen and enhance the children’s commissioner’s role to deliver positive change for children and young people. 

We welcome the proposals in the Children and Families Bill to extend the children's commissioner's responsibilities but we think the current proposals should go further. This unique role must have the right powers and the independence to effectively advocate for children and young people.

What we’re doing

When a bill goes through parliament there are opportunities to get issues raised at each stage of the process and for MPs and peers to table amendments to change the proposed legislation. 

In the case of the Children and Families Bill, we’re working with MPs and peers to highlight the importance of the children’s commissioner’s role, and encourage them to raise issues related to this – such as how it is important for the commissioner to be independent, and that the bill sets out that the commissioner considers children in custody as vulnerable children.

Enhancing the commissioner’s independence and role

For the children’s commissioner to be a truly independent advocate for children, it must have adequate resources (ie money), and parliament should play a bigger role in appointing and dismissing – rather than a minister.

This is important to establish the commissioner’s authority to act freely and be able to challenge the decisions that the government makes which affect children.   

Representing children and boosting their involvement

The children’s commissioner has particular responsibility to speak up for our most vulnerable children, including children in care, disabled children and care leavers. 

At the moment, the definition of ‘vulnerable children’ does not include children in custody, or children separated from their parents who are seeking asylum or have been trafficked. We want to see them included.

Children and young people’s participation in decisions made about them is part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child and we think this is really important. Which is why we believe that the children’s commissioner should involve children in his or her work. 

What's next?

The Children and Families Bill is currently being debated by a committee of MPs and we are speaking to these MPs about the changes we think should be made to the bill. We will keep you updated about this as the bill goes through parliament.

For further detail on our partnership and partners in increasing the children’s commissioner’s role, please read the briefing document about our coalition, the Alliance for Reform of the Children’s Commissioner.


By Michaela Neild - Policy team

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