This Annual Report covers the Children’s Commissioner’s year to the end of March 2015. For all but one month of that time, my predecessor Maggie Atkinson was Children’s Commissioner for England and I would like to record my thanks to her and the team who supported her for much of the work detailed herein.
Bringing up children is the most important duty, not just of parents but of our society as a whole. Over the past year, the Children’s Commissioner’s work continued to focus attention on and support and encourage improvement in areas where there was the most pressing need for strong leadership, greater focus and shared understanding. These included: tackling child sexual abuse; pressing for better support for children in or leaving care; or those who are in the youth justice or asylum systems or who have mental health conditions.
Minimising the impact on children of ongoing austerity measures was also a key focus. As the law states that we must focus particularly on children who are most likely to have their rights abused, our work largely protects and promotes the most vulnerable. Whilst there remain many millions of children in England who need better and greater support, it is also important not to lose sight of the majority who are raised in warm, stable, loving homes and who make an incredible contribution to the environments in which they live. Our annual Takeover event saw record 44,000 children make a positive difference through involvement in decision-making in 1,100 organisations.
On 1 April 2014 the Children’s Commissioner’s remit was ‘officially’ strengthened through the Children and Families Act 2014. At the request of the then Secretary of State for Education, the Commissioner had been working to the spirit of the legislation for some time prior to its enactment. The Act also saw the transfer of a number of functions and responsibilities previously held by the Children’s Rights Director in Ofsted to the Commissioner. These included a telephone support service for children in care or in receipt of social care and Care Monitor, the national survey of children in care.
I felt immensely privileged on my appointment as Children’s Commissioner for England and I look forward to working on behalf of the nation’s children to promote and protect their rights and best interests over the next six years. Alongside this Annual Report, I have published my key priorities which will build on activities to date with impactful strategies to support all children to reach their potential. I do not underestimate the challenges we will face in bringing up the country’s children but I am determined to ensure I use my term wisely to drive real improvements to children’s outcomes and in particular the most vulnerable.