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Joint Committee on Human Rights calls for enhancement of Children’s Commissioner’s role

Powers and independence should be more explicit in legislation, it is recommended

The Joint Committee on Human Rights  has welcomed the proposed change in the Children's Commissioner's primary function, from one of 'promoting awareness of the views and interests of children in England' to one of 'promoting and protecting the rights of children in England'.

In its report, just published, on 'Reform of the Office of the Children's Commissioner - draft legislation', the Committee has recommended that   the Bill should expressly define "the rights of children in England" to include the rights in the UNCRC and the rights of children in any other international treaty ratified by the UK for the purposes of defining the Commissioner's primary function. The Children's Commissioner should also be required to have regard to all relevant international standards concerning the rights of children.

The Commissioner's specific powers, the report says, should be much clearer.

"The Commissioner should have the power to initiate legal proceedings, including judicial review, in the Commissioner's own name, and also to intervene as a third party where appropriate, equivalent to the power of the Equality and Human Rights Commission."

It is also recommended that the Bill contain clear statutory underpinning for the independence of the Commissioner from the Government, by including clauses which impose a clear duty on the Minister not to interfere with the independence of the Commissioner and an obligation to ensure sufficient funding to enable the Commissioner to perform its primary function.

The Children's Commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson, has warmly welcomed  the report and "in particular, its suggested revisions to the draft to further strengthen our ability to effectively protect and promote children's human rights."

The report can be read here.