The Children’s Commissioner for England
The Children’s Commissioner for England is Dame Rachel de Souza.
She speaks up for children and young people so that policymakers and the people who have an impact on their lives take their views and interests into account when making decisions about them.
Independent of Government and Parliament, the Children’s Commissioner has unique powers to help bring about long-term change and improvements for all children, particularly the most vulnerable.
She does this by first gathering evidence: talking to children and young people, requesting information from public institutions and then carrying out research and compiling information on the wide range of things that affect children’s lives.
She is the ‘eyes and ears’ of children in the system and the country as a whole and is expected to carry out her duties ‘without fear or favour’ of Government, children’s agencies, and the voluntary and private sectors.
She also provides advice to children who are in or leaving care, living away from home or working with social services through her advice line, Help at Hand.
The history of the Children’s Commissioner for England role
The post of Children’s Commissioner was created following a recommendation made by Lord Laming in the Victoria Climbie Inquiry. The role was initially established under the Children Act 2004 which gave the Commissioner responsibility for promoting awareness of the views and interests of children. The Commissioner’s statutory remit includes understanding what children and young people think about things that affect them and encouraging decision makers to always take their best interests into account. Her unique data gathering powers and powers of entry to talk with children and gain evidence, enable her to help bring about long-term change and improvements for children, particularly the most vulnerable.
The Children and Families Act 2014 further strengthened the remit, powers and independence of the Commissioner, and gave her special responsibility for the rights of children who are in or leaving care, living away from home or receiving social care services. She also speaks for wider groups of children on non-devolved issues including immigration (for the whole of the UK) and youth justice (for England and Wales).
As well as a team of staff, the Commissioner is supported by an advisory group, an audit and risk committee and children’s groups, stakeholders and specialists.