Why I set up the petition about the new Children’s Commissioner   1 comment

In basic terms I set it up because I do not have any faith that the current process to appoint Children’s Commissioners is appropriate for such an important role

I need to be clear this is not a personal attack on the Governments preferred candidate Anne Longfield – although I personally think Anne should not have applied for the post especially when you take into account what the organisation she currently works for – 4Children  – said in  their own written evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights within House of Lords on ‘ the Role and Independence of the OCC.

“In regard to the independence of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, it is our view that the effectiveness of the Office has been constrained by an unnecessarily close working relationship with the Department for Education.”

As 4Children  receive a lot of funding from the DfE ;  and 4Children have  supported recent Government proposals and implementation of policy, I would suggest that this would make it difficult for anyone who works for 4Children not to have had a close working relationship with the Department for Education.

I have personally noted that Anne has not really made any comment, either personally or in her role as CE of 4Children lately – and this could be taken as not supporting Government policy. I can not say because I have not spoken to Anne, or read anything about why she has been noted to have said nothing, and therefore do not known the reasons behind this.

So as I say the petition that I set up is not about Anne Longfield personally – she applied for the post and I can only hope that she thinks she can be independent of Government influence despite her current role.

However, in my opinion to say nothing is not the same as publicly objecting to Government policy – where children are concerned, they need advocates – people who will say what is wrong with Government policies and why not in the best interests of children’s well being.

This applies to all who are in a role of protecting the rights of children.

And it  is particularly important that a Children’s Commissioner has a track record of speaking up for children – all children. This means a very special person is needed to fulfil the role and responsibilities of being a Children’s Commissioner, with a whole range of skills and experiences.

 

I think whoever becomes a Children’s Commissioner – now or in the future – will be in a difficult position because the Office of Children’s Commissioner (OCC) is within Sanctuary Buildings – which is DfE office in London . I question how the OCC can be independent when their office is within a government building – with DfE and other government people able to ‘put pressure’ on them.

Cynical of me?

Maybe but I think the OCC should be completely independent of government influence, including where their office is situated.

 

So  what is the petition about?

It is about ensuring the Children’s Commissioner is able to fulfil the role – and that the process of appointing a Children’s Commissioner is fit for purpose

The wording from the petition heading  is

To ensure the next Children’s Commissioner is able to fulfil the responsibilities of role

with the further wording saying

Ensure the Children’s Commissioner is able to fulfil the responsibilities of the role of standing up for and protecting the rights of children under the Children and Families Act 2014, without conflict of interest or direction from Government.

Ensure the Children’s Commissioner has proven record of protecting the rights of children up to the age of 18 years old, or 25 years if they have been in care, are care leavers or have a disability.

Ensure the Children’s Commissioner provides evidence of own knowledge and experience in representing children of all ages, abilities and background.

So to my mind when putting together the wording – this was not about Anne, or about this appointment – but about ensuring that whoever is appointed now and in the future is able to carry out the role  – now and in the future.

If anyone, including Anne Longfield herself, thinks this petition is a ‘witch hunt’ about Anne – then I apologise . It is not about an individual it is about a system, that in my opinion is flawed from start to finish.

So, without going into too much detail, here are a few reasons I think the system is flawed

  • Why do the Government have any say in this – and in particular why do they have a ‘preferred person’?
  • Why is the Education Select Committee involved – the role of Children’s Commissioner extends well beyond the remit of ‘education’
  • Why can the Government over rule any recommendation by the select committee? (as they did with the last appointment)
  • Why is the Office of Children’s Commissioner in the DfE building?
  • Why are children, young people, their parents / carers not consulted with?
  • Why are those who work with and support with children and young people not consulted with?
  • Why is the post not widely promoted so that more people know about it and can apply?
  • Why was Twitter the only method available this time for people to comment – and why only about the key priorities?
  • Why were people only given 6 days to respond?

In my opinion, this just another example of Government doing what they want, of going through processes but just over riding any other opinions or recommendations.

And as Government are only in office for a short period of time – and individual ministers (who often do not have any qualification or even experience in the area that they are supposed to represent)  for even less time as they get moved around to suit Government agendas and impact on popularity, the whole thing is not fit for purpose.

 

In fact, although I do not support any particular political party, as in my opinion the whole system of Government is not fit for purpose (that is the system not the people who do their best within that system)  – I do agree with David Laws – Government should not be in charge of education policy making as they don’t know what they are talking about and each person ‘in charge’ messes up everything by trying to make their ‘stamp’ on things.

I will go further than Mr. Laws – the Government should not be able to influence ANYTHING to do with children and young people – and certainly the whole system of so called debate, consultation, responding to public opinion, having regard to research and expertise – really is not fit for purpose, because it makes no difference AT ALL – and just wastes a lot of money and time.

 

Of course not everyone will agree with my personal opinion – and I would not suggest that my personal opinion is the only one worth discussing.

However, things need to change – and sooner rather than later – children are not being safeguarded – and in this I mean not safeguarded from the system.

Let’s start the discussion, let’s invite everyone to be involved, let’s agree to start with a clean drawing board and to come up with proposals that will work – rather than trying to patch up a system that does not work – and has not worked for years.

 

I am just an individual, I don’t claim to be an expert – but I do listen – as I now have a bit of a reputation not only for listening, but for doing my best to speak up for children and families – and because of that I get a lot of requests for support, I know much more than I am comfortable with knowing.

I can not tell you about any of these requests for support but if I could, you would be as horrified as I am that such things can and do happen – and to be clear I am talking about complete failure of so called ‘robust systems’ that let children down, that do not protect their rights, that do not improve outcomes.

Robust systems, bits of paper, policies do not safeguard children (in the widest sense of that word – so their whole well being, happiness and life opportunities)

What safeguards children and young people is actions – is people doing the right thing, is people standing on their soap boxes and SHOUTING ‘This is not right, this is not in the best interests of children’

To say nothing, to do nothing, or to follow blindly ‘systems’ without even thinking about the reasons or the consequences, is in my opinion

NOT ACCEPTABLE

So to finish where I started with why I set up the petition

I did so because I am so fed up with this Government (and Governments before them) just doing what they want, for pretending to consult, for pretending to do things in the best interest of this country and the people who live here.

I did so because although time was short – I had to ‘do something’. I was hearing lots of people saying – this is not right but unable to do anything because of the time scales set by Government. They did not have time to call a meeting to discuss within their organisations; they did not have time to rally supporters – and in many case they did not even have time to think about their own view.

As for the general public – most had no idea that this was all happening

Do I think I had any impact – probably in terms of influencing Government – NO

But in terms of enabling people to express an opinion – YES.  (200 people within less than 24 hours)

 

And I shall continue to do what I can – to do my best for Children, Young People and families

WHY?

Because it is important to me

Posted November 11, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

One response to “Why I set up the petition about the new Children’s Commissioner

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  1. I’m learning from you. Will attempt to get a wider audience – you’re right – most people don’t know what’s happening ‘in their name’.

    Thanks for putting the case so clearly

    This affects everyone of us – whether we realise it or not

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