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'Please feel free to get in touch'

Professor Al Aynsley-Green is the new children's commissioner. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

The children's commissioner for England has said young people should feel that the door is open for them to approach him about their worries.

Professor Al Aynsley-Green, 61, appointed by Education Secretary Ruth Kelly this week, is the national clinical director for children at the Department of Health and Nuffield professor of child health at London's Great Ormond Street hospital and at London university's institute of child health.

Various celebrities were touted for the post, including Terry Wogan, Sir Bob Geldof and Esther Rantzen, but in the end the job went to the renowned practicioner in paediatrics.

He said: "I want all children and young people to know that they can approach me to discuss any matter that affects them, knowing that I will value their opinion.

"Children and young people have often been ignored in public life, and I am dedicating my role to setting that straight."

Critics have called the new post a "toothless tiger" as the commissioner cannot launch investigations and must report to ministers.

But the appointment was welcomed by children's groups and charities. Paul Ennals, chief executive of the National Children's Bureau and a member of the panel that interviewed Professor Aynsley-Green, said: "Like many in the sector, the bureau has expressed concern about the formal powers given to this post... It is vital to have a commissioner who can work effectively with the Government but who has the independence and integrity to put the interests of children and young people first."

Professor Aynsley-Green was educated at Glyn grammar, Epsom, Surrey, and Guy's hospital medical school. He has worked in health services in the UK, Europe and the United States.

In his new role he will seek the views and identify the needs of young people and make enquiries on their behalf.

He will work closely with his counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but, unlike them, he will need ministerial approval before launching an investigation.

Professor Aynsley-Green lost his father at the age of 10, an experience he said effectively ended his own childhood and "left a scar on my psyche".

He never smacked his own children and enticed them to read by not buying a television until they started school.

He lists family, walking, music and photography among his interests. He is a member of the Athenaeum Club and the Royal Society of Medicine. He is married with two daughters.


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