Petition questions independence of children's commissioner candidate

By Laura McCardle

| 10 November 2014

An early years campaigner has launched a petition questioning the suitability of 4Children chief executive Anne Longfield as the next children's commissioner for England.

Anne Longfield will appear before the education select committee tomorrow

Longfield was named as the government’s preferred candidate for the post on Tuesday last week but childminder Penny Webb fears that her links to the Department for Education, through 4Children, would hinder her ability to speak up for the rights of children.

Her petition to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan states: “There are concerns that the role of the children’s commissioner must be undertaken by a person who is independent of government, who will speak on behalf of children of all ages, and who has a track record of standing up for and protecting the rights of children.”

The petition, which has so far received 188 signatures, also questions a six-day informal government consultation seeking the public’s views on what the key priority for the next commissioner should be.

Launched on Wednesday last week, the education select committee asked the public to use the hashtag #OCCintray to share their thoughts ahead of a pre-appointment hearing with Longfield at parliament tomorrow.

The campaign, which closed at midday today, yielded a number of responses including mental health and the rights of care leavers.

However, it was also used by some campaigners to question how the government came to choose Longfield as its preferred candidate.

Sarah Steel, managing director of The Old Station Nursery, wrote: “Please, please, please give us an independent children’s commissioner, not another DfE fix, like strategic partner.”

Posting on CYP Now's website, nursery owner Ken McArthur said: "Any children's commissioner must not only be independent and free from government influence but must be seen to be free as well from business associations. We've all seen the debacle over the chair of the historical abuse inquiry to see public reaction and loss of confidence in ministers' choices of chairs."

Meanwhile, childminder Simona McKenzie said that the government should ask children who their preferred choice would be.

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