Children's Commissioner begins new rights-based role
On 1 April, the Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) will begin its new role focused on promoting and protecting the rights of children. The Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) led the campaign to establish a Children's Commissioner and warmly welcomes the new rights-based role. The changes come into effect following Royal Assent of the Children and Families Act. The Commissioner will now have increased powers in line with international standards and increased independence from Government.
CRAE co-ordinated the work of the Alliance for Reform of the Children's Commissioner (ARCC) throughout the passage of the Children and Families Bill. Working with parliamentarians from across the parties, we were able to achieve a number of substantial changes to the legislation as well as gain some crucial assurances from Ministers.
Following ARCC's work, legislation now ensures that the Commissioner is:
- Empowered to monitor the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in England.
- Empowered to advise those working with children on how to act compatibly with the rights of children.
- Empowered to require private bodies delivering a public function (in addition to public bodies) to respond to recommendations and provide information.
- Required to have particular regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when considering children's rights and interests.
- Required to publish a summary of how the Commissioner has taken into account the results of any consultations with children.
The Secretary of State will also be required to "take reasonable steps" to involve children in the appointment of the Children's Commissioner.
In addition to the legal changes above, we were also able to gain the following assurances from Ministers:
- Raising public awareness of children's rights and initiating and intervening in legal proceedings are part of the Commissioner's new primary function of 'promoting and protecting the rights of children in England'.
- The Commissioner will be able to signpost individual children to sources of information and assistance as well as conduct an investigation if the issue raised has wider significance.
- Government published a summary of the appointments process for a future Commissioner, establishing an expectation that candidates are to be appointed on merit, following a fair and open recruitment process. A parliamentary committee should be involved in agreeing the job description and carrying out a pre-appointment hearing.
- The personal qualities required for the role of Commissioner will be decided by an appointments panel chaired by an independent assessor appointed by the Office of Public Appointments and subject to quality assurance by Parliament.
The Alliance for Reform of the Children's Commissioner (ARCC) includes Action for Children, British Youth Council, Children England, CRAE, The Children’s Society, National Children's Bureau (NCB), NCVYS, NSPCC, Save the Children and UNICEF UK. ARCC was formerly known as the Children’s Commissioner Review NGO Co-ordinating Group.
Find out more about the legislative changes and assurances we gained.