Commissioner gets a belated welcome

A CHILDREN'S commissioner has finally been given the backing of the Scottish Executive well over two years after the proposal was first raised.

Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister, welcomes the role of an independent commissioner for children and young people up to the age of 18 in her response to the education, culture and sport committee's initial investigation into a post which is common elsewhere in Europe.

"It could provide a voice for the most vulnerable and deprived children in Scotland and help to raise the profile of child poverty issues," Ms Jamieson states.

A commissioner should promote and safeguard children's rights, communicate with children, investigate issues and report to parliament, and promote good practice, according to the Executive.

The focus would be on those most at risk of exclusion and deprivation. Ms Jamieson believes the commissioner should concentrate on general investigations and should not have the power to probe individual cases. But advice to others over their complaints procedures would be possible.

MSPs recommended that the commissioner should have powers to call witnesses and summon documents but Ms Jamieson is more guarded. Existing freedom of information legislation may be enough, she suggests.

The commissioner would have to issue an annual report and publicise issues and "could make a real difference to the lives of children and young people".

"It is important that a commissioner is able to add real value to existing systems and mechanisms and not duplicate the work of existing agencies," the Executive adds.

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