Children's commissioner role is 'flawed', inquiry finds

10th December 2010 at 00:00

The impact of England's children's commissioner has been "disappointing" and the role should be radically redesigned, a government-commissioned inquiry has concluded.

The role of the commissioner, tasked with championing the rights of young people, is "flawed" and should be made stronger, according to an independent review by John Dunford, former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

Dr Dunford said current commissioner Maggie Atkinson was working with "one hand tied behind her back" because of the weakness of her role. But he also criticised the amount of money attached to the job, which carries a salary of #163;140,000 a year, plus expenses, which the review said "seems excessive". The commissioners for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each receive a salary of #163;75,000-95,000.

Dr Dunford wants the commissioner to be more independent and report directly to Parliament, instead of the Department for Education, and to have more powers to hold inquiries.

A children's commissioner with a stronger role in promoting children's rights is needed the Government is to meet its commitment to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Dr Dunford said.

Part of the proposed overhaul would see the merging of the offices of the children's commissioner and Ofsted's children's rights director.

"I want to see a stronger children's commissioner, as is the case in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the impact has been clearer and more considerable," Dr Dunford said.

The DfE has accepted Dr Dunford's recommendations and will consult on legislative changes. Officials will now discuss changes with Ms Atkinson, and measures will be introduced to change the law.

Ms Atkinson will continue as commissioner, but the legal changes to the role may mean that it will have to be readvertised.

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