Children's champion believes review could lead to wider powers

23rd July 2010 at 01:00

England's Children's Commissioner says she has had official confirmation that her pound;135,000-plus-a-year post will survive the Government-commissioned review into its value for money.

Maggie Atkinson is "extremely optimistic" about the way the independent inquiry is being carried out and says the Prime Minister's office "has already confirmed" that her post will not be abolished.

The review, which got under way last week, is headed by John Dunford, outgoing general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. The announcement of the review prompted headlines suggesting the post would be axed as part of the Government's cuts.

But Dr Atkinson said there were children's commissioners or ombudsmen in every other UK country and in most European and Commonwealth nations and that cutting the post would put England in an "absolutely unique" position. She believes the inquiry could even strengthen her powers.

"So we don't expect the review to lead to abolition," she told the annual conference of Aspect, the education officers' union last week. "It may lead to change."

Dr Atkinson was only told about the review on the Friday evening before its announcement the following Monday morning, but said she welcomed it.

The review will consider whether the commissioner needs the support of a dedicated organisation, something ministers have already questioned.

Dr Atkinson, who is the country's second children's commissioner, said her office of 25 staff had existed on a standstill annual budget of pound;3 million since 2006, with no pay rises.

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