Dunford reforms will bolster children's rights in England

By Janaki Mahadevan

| 06 December 2010

The government must act to implement the recommendations of John Dunford and ensure every piece of legislation is considered with the rights of children in mind, campaigners have said.

Welcoming Dunford’s recommendations, Carolyne Willow, national director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said, if undertaken, the proposals for reforming the Office of the Children’s Commissioner would ensure England is a country that properly respects the rights of children and young people.

"Ministers today have given children and young people in England two huge hopes – first that they should, in a matter of months, have their own powerful champion who will promote and protect their rights and make sure those in power hear and respond to their views," she said. "Second, that ministers across government will from now on be systematically assessing proposed laws and policies for their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"These fantastic promises, if made real, should begin to place England as a country that truly respects children and young people as holders of rights and bring an end to rights violations that previous ministers tried shamefully to minimise and even justify."

Penny Nicholls, director of children and young people at The Children’s Society said during a time of spending cuts an effective children’s commissioner is crucial.

"In this time of government cuts, which will impact on the most disadvantaged disproportionately, a truly independent children's rights champion will be vital in ensuring that children are protected and that their welfare is considered in all new developments.

"The charity has long campaigned for the children’s commissioner to have a strengthened remit to promote and protect children's rights. We are very pleased that Dr Dunford recommends the new Children’s Commissioner should be able to assess the impact of new government policies on children's rights."

National Association of Headteachers general secretary Russell Hobby said: "Our members see first-hand the frustration felt by children and young people who are unable to make their voices heard. We believe that children and young people need a high-profile yet accessible advocate to prevent that frustration turning to disillusionment. That is why a children’s commissioner with greater independence from government is vital. The commissioner must be free to provide challenge where needed and to ensure that new legislation is scrutinised. "

Professor Carolyn Hamilton, director of the Children’s Legal Centre and former senior legal adviser to the children's commissioner added: "A commissioner for children cannot promote children's rights effectively unless it is independent. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner should not have to have its work plan agreed by the government, nor be limited on the areas in which it works by the government department sponsoring it." 

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