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Children to get their own minister

CHILDREN are expected to get their own minister to fight for them in Whitehall after a Government reshuffle.

The new minister, due to be named late this week, is expected to improve co-ordination of children's services in the wake of several scandals, including the murder of Victoria Climbie three years ago by her carers.

He or she is likely to be based in the Department for Education and Skills or the Cabinet Office. Well-placed sources suggested the DfES could be renamed the Department for Children and Education and take-over responsibility for family issues from the Home Office.

Currently, responsibility for children's services is shared between a number of departments including the Home Office, Department for Health and DfES.

But Prime Minister Tony Blair has become increasingly concerned that departments have become engaged in a turf war over the control of projects instead of focusing on improvements for children.

As The TES went to press, speculation was mounting that Paul Boateng, Gordon Brown's deputy at the Treasury, would be given the role. If appointed, one of his first tasks will be to present a Green Paper next month setting out reform and answering calls for a commissioner to defend children's rights in England. Wales and Scotland have already appointed their own Children's Commissioner.

Other key responsibilities are expected to include

* reviving flagging progress towards the Government's target of cutting child poverty by half by the end of the decade.

* tackling bullying in schools and improving the life chances of children in care.

Paul Ennals, chief executive of the National Children's Bureau, said the appointment of a children's minister with real powers would be welcome.

But, he said: "If it is just a minister at the DfES with responsibility for issues like truancy and bullying then we have got that already."

He warned that if the DfES takes over children's issues safeguards would be needed to ensure that health and youth justice remain a priority.

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