Skip to main content

MSPs back call for children's commissioner

THE Scottish Parliament's education committee issued its expected recommendation last week that a children's commissioner should be established with statutory backing. The commissioner's remit would cover all issues affecting young people, including their education.

The Executive welcomed the report and said it hoped to respond as soon as possible. Ministers have remained "sympathetic" to the idea of a commissioner while wishing to consider in more detail what the functions of the post would be. They are particularly concerned that it does not duplicate work and "adds value" to existing services.

The report suggests that a "commissioner for children and young people" would look after their interests up to the age of 18 (and over if they have been in care).

But the committee stopped short of supporting investigations into individual cases. The Welsh commissioner told MSPs there was a danger he would be swamped if that were to happen, although he stressed the importance of his power to conduct an "examination" where cases pointed to the need for policies to be reviewed.

The compromise will give the commissioner power "in unusual and exceptional circumstances" to take on individual cases where issues of particular significance are raised. It expects that most individual cases can be passed on to other agencies.

Irene McGugan, one of the committee's SNP members, said a commissioner would go some way towards ensuring the views of children are heard and their interests promoted.

But Brian Monteith, the Tories' education spokesman and another committee member, expressed scepticism about an "all singing, all dancing" commissioner who seeks children's views and agitates for changes in the law.

Mr Monteith, who welcomes other aspects of the report, said: "Such a role can already be car-ried out by MSPs and MPs. To give this task to an unelected bureaucrat with a vested interest in expanding regulation may take us a step closer to a corporatist approach that puts groups' rights ahead of individual rights."

He added: "I would be very concerned if, under the pretext of championing children's rights, the commissioner lobbied for new laws which interfered with the rights of parents."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you