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3 February 2012

Partnership working to promote, protect and realise children’s rights


As you read my blog this week, I am sure to be pouring over the first draft of our report on the School Exclusions Inquiry. My thanks to the hundreds of people, including children and young people, who gave professional and personal accounts of their experience so we could formulate a picture of the situation around the country. John Connolly, OCC's Principal Policy Officer in Education, has done sterling work supporting me and the Inquiry Panel. I look forward to sharing the detail of the report with you when we publish it on 19th March.


We had a great start to the week with all the staff at the OCC gathering to discuss how we can build on and improve our ways of working.


We continue to keep a close eye on the tumultuous passage of the Welfare Reform Bill. On Monday, all four UK Children's Commissioners published a statement expressing our deep concerns at the serious negative impact of the proposals in the Bill on hundreds of thousands of children. We are urging the UK Government to reconsider its plans, specifically the £26,000 benefit cap to be imposed on families each year.  We understand the next stages of the Commons process may disappoint us, and we will need to move towards examining the reality for children after the Bill becomes an Act.  We are committed to doing that.


Moving on to some really welcome news, I have been invited by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to sit on the forum for the first children's and young people's outcomes strategy. The forum will look at health issues that matter most to children and young people and how a reforming NHS will meet their needs. Our recommendations will be submitted to the Government in the summer. My contribution will be supported by the collective wisdom of the OCC team and take a child rights-based approach, as you might expect!


We have also successfully appointed organisations to undertake research on our safeguarding and youth justice policies, and for projects to be undertaken during the next few months. The work includes reviewing the OCC's safeguarding procedures; a literature review of parental alcohol misuse and; a knowledge and evidence review of the evidence relating to the prevalence and incidence of neuro-developmental disorders in children in the secure estate. Full details will be announced shortly.


My team here are regularly out and about meeting with organisations in the sector. Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children's Commissioner was invited to speak at the Wiener Library, her subject entitled: 'When and how should my child learn about traumatic histories like the Holocaust?' Sue stressed the importance for children to learn about world-wide events, both good and bad, past and present, in a sensitive and age-appropriate way. The importance of learning about the Holocaust or any genocide is to develop understanding about valuing others and combating prejudice and intolerance. Her speech centred on a rights-based approach to learning, stressing in particular, Article 19 of the UN Convention the Rights of the Child, which states that children should be protected from all forms of violence, abuse and neglect from anyone who looks after them.  Children need to be treated with dignity and respect and to treat others in the same way.


Ross Hendry, OCC Director of Policy and Lisa Davis, OCC Senior Policy Officer, had a successful meeting with UNICEF UK updating them on our recent work on the Welfare Reform Bill and our plans to develop a Child Rights Impact Assessment model. They also discussed how and where we need to work closely together to improve children's rights.


The week will end on a high as we host another meeting with our children and young people's advisory group, Amplify. A packed day is planned with us sharing and learning from each other. Amplify is at the heart of our decision-making and we will be seeking their views and shaping together their involvement in our work programmes for the next financial year. Topics on the agenda include the Business Plan 2012-13 and Strategic Plan 2012-14 - with a longer session to discuss in detail our child poverty project. We're also setting up a closed, secure "us only" online network so Amplify can have more opportunities to feed into projects on a regular basis.


We now have more than 4,000 Twitter followers! Keep up to date with our movements at @ChildrensComm



Maggie Atkinson

Children's Commissioner for England