Joint Committee On Human Rights Ninth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1. Existing arrangements for the promotion and protection of children's rights and interests are insufficiently independent from Government to ensure that the rights and interests of all children in England are fully protected and promoted at all times. That independence is the key value that a Children's Commissioner would add to existing mechanisms, which do not in themselves obviate the need for a commissioner. (Paragraph 14)

2. An independent voice for children could significantly improve the consideration given to children in many areas of policy development. (Paragraph 19)

3. A commissioner for children could occupy an extremely valuable role in seeking a solution to the growing problem of school exclusions which seeks to reconcile competing rights and needs—including those of the non­disruptive majority. (Paragraph 21)

4. The persistence of the experience of mental and physical violence by children against children in our schools needs to be tackled with at least as much attention and vigour as has been given to the problems of adults within the workplace. A commissioner for children could play a catalytic role in encouraging the greater participation of children in developing effective anti­bullying strategies and in disseminating best practice within schools. (Paragraph 26)

5. An independent commissioner could make a significant difference to the work of teachers in seeking to ensure that all children are taught about their rights under the UN Convention in schools. (Paragraph 28)

6. A children's commissioner could make a significant difference by helping children and young people make an appropriate contribution to consultation by public authorities, and could provide useful guidance to all levels of government and public services on the effectiveness of meaningful consultation with children and young people about decisions that affect them. (Paragraph 33)

7. The Government's starting point for the terms of reference of the proposed commissioner should be that its main function is one of investigation and reporting on matters affecting the rights and welfare of children. These functions should be supported by appropriate powers, and in exercising them the commissioner should be required—

—  to safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young persons;

  to give paramount consideration to the rights of the child or young person;

  to have regard in particular to the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child or young person (considered in the light of his or her age and understanding);

  to have full regard to the importance of the role of parents and those with parental responsibilities in the upbringing and development of their children; and

  to take into consideration any relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Paragraph 36)

8. The Government should declare now its commitment to the principle of establishing a children's commissioner for England. (Paragraph 43)

9. We recommend the establishment of a children's commissioner who would be a champion for the children of England, independent from but working closely with central government and other agencies. The commissioner would use the principles of the CRC as a guide and measure in considering delivery of services to children by government and public authorities, and would involve children as much as was appropriate in its work. The commissioner would pursue children's interests by promotion, advocacy and investigation. The commissioner would carefully select issues for investigation where it was felt these could make a difference to children, in partnership with NGOs, experts and service providers. The commissioner should not be empowered to investigate complaints from individual children but would be able to work with existing advice and assistance services maintained by other organisations to monitor policy implications of issues raised by children. (Paragraph 44)

10. We favour a separate, identifiable champion for children. The work of the commissioner should be grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it is clear that those who advocate the establishment of this office want it to go wider than a purely rights­based approach, operating as a spur to better co­ordination of children's services and an advocate within Government of the child's viewpoint. (Paragraph 45)

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