Children's rights must be central in recruitment of new commissioner

Jonathan Stanley
Friday, August 28, 2020

The children’s commissioner role has been advertised for a few weeks now.

In a previous blog I suggested five tasks for the incoming commissioner: regeneration, reset, reposition, recover, reconnect and raised some large issues about the appointment process.

The closing date for applications is mid-September. 

Are you going for it? Or are you convincing yourself you are not what is being looked for?

Here’s a shout out to those in the children’s sector who would like to apply – Go for it! You might be what we are looking for! The more people committed to children’s rights that apply, the more the message gets made that these are important. Self-selecting ourselves out of consideration is one way of not getting what we know is needed.

There may be only a few who feel they have the knowledge, experience, energy and gravitas to put themselves forwards. Through social media we can encourage them by sending messages of the type of person and the programme we are seeking. 

The commissioner plays a key role raising children's issues and advising responses. Learning tells us that how childhood is seen changes according to economic, social and political factors. It isn't a given. How the commissioner sees childhood has major implications for our work with children. So we need to think clearly about the nature of the role - is it to be a person who sets out to create a facilitating environment for childhood or who mitigates impingements?

Here’s some thoughts on the things we can do to push our ideas forward in the discussions:

  • Keep on, and join with those already requesting, care experienced inclusion into the job description and personal specification and on the appointment panel. 
  • The chair of the panel is the children’s minister Vicky Ford's immediate predecessor as MP. The balancing of the panel, and public perception, is all the more necessary and important.
  • Make applicants aware through the media of sector expectations and establish their willingness to make themselves available for scrutiny. How can we do this?
  • Create a job description/person specification through wiki methodology - a first draft to be developed by people who log in to a dedicated website.
  • Young people in care now to offer interview questions via text. This would reinstitute the Children’s Rights Director texting group which was asked one question a week.
  • Applicants can be made aware that there is an expectation that they will be interviewed by a sector representative group consisting of care-experienced children and a range of sector organisations.
  • To take on such a task we are remarkably unprepared. Ok, it’s complicated, but it is not rocket science for people used to doing complex things, that means all of us in children’s sector. 

The Paris principles relate to national human rights institutions, these being independent institutions bestowed with the responsibility to broadly protect, monitor and promote human rights in a given country. 

That’s the children’s commissioner’s role. There’s a duty to work in partnership with others independently of government.

There’s no doubt there are many heads, hearts and hands ready to take on the task. Being realistic, for these people to do their best and to focus their work it needs a children’s organisation to champion this cause, better still a group, or single benefactor, to be the spark that lit the flame. It needs the donation of time and resources to make this happen. 

Someone has to make a start. We don’t have a lot of time.

Jonathan Stanley is the chief executive of the NCERCC

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