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Children's Commissioner for England

Volume 513: debated on Monday 12 July 2010

I am today announcing that the Government have commissioned Dr John Dunford OBE, currently general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, to carry out an independent and consultative review of the office, role and functions of the Children’s Commissioner for England. Dr Dunford has wide practical experience of the reality of children’s lives. I have written to him today to set out the remit of this review and would like to take this opportunity to provide the House with further details.

The education, health and well-being of children are vitally important for our society. The Government are committed to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child (UNCRC) and believe it is vital that children and young people have a strong, independent advocate to champion their interests and views and to promote their rights.

The role of Children’s Commissioner for England was created by the Children Act 2004 with a remit to promote awareness of the views and interests of children in England. I would like to acknowledge the work that the current commissioner, and her predecessor, have done to this end and make the voices of children and young people heard.

It is now over five years since the first Children’s Commissioner for England took up office but the role and remit have not yet been reviewed. There is continued debate about the remit of the post: as compared to its counterparts in other countries and the devolved Administrations; its public profile; and the impact it has had.

The Government have committed, in our coalition agreement, to increase accountability and review the cost of quangos and, therefore, 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.

The review will take a wide-ranging and independent look at the office, role and function of the Children’s Commissioner. Dr Dunford will determine how the review will be conducted but I have asked him to ensure maximum opportunities to consult are taken and to consider the broad spectrum of opinions on this issue including the views of children and young people. With this in mind, I understand that Dr Dunford will be launching a call for evidence and I am sure he will be keen to secure the opinion of parliamentarians.

In particular I have asked for the review to cover three key aspects:

1) The powers, remit and functions of the Children’s Commissioner.

2) The relationship with other related functions supported by Government.

3) Value for Money.

A copy of my full remit letter to Dr Dunford is available in the House Library.

I have asked Dr Dunford to provide me with an update in mid-October and a full report by the end of November. I will then consider the recommendations and the implications for any further action by Government, including the need for any legislative change.

The current role and functions of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner will of course continue during the period of this review.