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I am now half-way through my term as Children’s Commissioner, and this coming year will be a critical juncture for children’s rights. There will be a general election, and a new government – whichever party or parties form it – will have a new mandate to set out an ambitious vision for what childhood can be, and for putting children’s rights at its heart.

That’s why in September 2023, I launched The Big Ambition to hear directly from children, young people, and parents across the country. I wanted to hear about what they wanted for the future, their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Over 367,000 children and adults engaged with it. I was particularly pleased that this included so many children with social workers, living away from home, with additional needs, or missing education. A truly ambitious vision for childhood must have at its heart those children who are too often overlooked.

From The Big Ambition, The Big Ask, and all the focus groups and surveys I have conducted, I have now engaged with over a million children and adults. I have used this to build a plan, made up of 33 recommendations, building on what children told me they wanted government to do. As such, the recommendations are ambitious. Because children are ambitious, and now is not the time for incrementalism. These recommendations would make the rights children are entitled to a reality. They provide a positive vision for what childhood could be like if only it were reimagined through the eyes of children.

They cover the seven pillars of my work: Children’s Social Care, Community, Education, Health, Family, Jobs and Skills, and a Better World. Across each pillar, it is the children to whom I have a particular duty – those with a social worker, living away from home or with care experience – whom I hold most in my mind. This plan can only work if it works for them.

I have also described a more radical overhaul of the way that government and civil society functions, that will be necessary to ensure that the individual changes children want to see, happen. We need to see a system that is shaped around some core outcomes for children, with funding following the child, clear central and local accountability, with a workforce that is valued and empowered, and data systems that make the state easier to navigate as a child, parent or professional.

The publication of the findings and recommendations from The Big Ambition are just the beginning. The voices of the million children will drive the rest of my time as Children’s Commissioner, and I will commit to striving to make each of the recommendations a reality. That is why this Business Plan sets out what I will be doing in the coming year to drive forward the changes, in each of the areas, that children have told me they want to see. It sets out how I will use the powers available to me as Children’s Commissioner to get data and information about children, and to go to all the places where children are living away from home.

But what will motivate me most throughout the year is the trust that children have placed in me. They have told me their ideas, frustrations and the changes they would like to see, and I want to repay that faith. When I first saw the results of The Big Ambition survey, one number stood out to me above all others – only 22% of children agreed that people who run the country listen to what they have to say. Initially this made me feel despondent. That this was a generation who had lost all faith in leaders and politicians. But as I read more and more of the responses to the survey and reflected on the words children used, I realised the message was in fact a very different one. This is not a generation who have become cynical, who believe that nothing will ever change. This is a generation who feel frustrated that they are not listened to, exactly because they have complete faith that if they were listened to, then politicians could and would transform their lives for the better.

They are right to believe this. I believe it too. I will dedicate my remaining time as Children’s Commissioner to making sure that the hopes that a million children have entrusted to me are heard and acted upon.

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