I am delighted to present our Business Plan 2013-14. The activities in then plan will be delivered on a budget reduced by 23% from 2009/10 as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Our role and remit were reviewed in 2010, and the review recommended change. We have gone from strength to strength since then, and in 2013-14, we are therefore planning activities that will strengthen our work on promoting and protecting children’s rights still further. This plan maps out a year of transition towards a strengthened Office of the Children’s Commissioner when the Office of the Children’s Rights Director (OCRD) will become part of this organisation, pending the passage into law of the Children and Families Bill expected early in 2014.
We have already focussed much of our work on children in contact with social care services, those in or having left the care system, and those living or educated away from home for whatever reason. The Plan for 2014-15, which will be written for the newly merged organisation, will help us consolidate and deliver the changes we will work through in 2013-14.
This Business Plan sets out how we will continue to use the powers and statutory duties granted to us under the Children Act 2004. It completes a strategic two year programme of activities set out in our Strategic Plan 2012-14, whose first year was completed in 2012-13. Over 200 individuals and organisations we work with were consulted on the draft of this business plan.
The vast majority of those who responded welcomed its contents. The UK has been a State Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1991. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s role remains to challenge and encourage policy makers, practitioners, and wider society to stand in the child’s shoes whenever possible, so that together we can ensure that the promises made in 1991 are upheld. We base what we do on the UNCRC and other rights instruments, using them all to champion, protect, promote and realise the rights, views and interests of England’s children and young people.
As the only statutory body championing the rights of all children, with a particular focus on the otherwise voiceless among them, we have unique powers which include going and meeting children and young people by exercising our legal right of entry into any setting except private homes. Wherever we work, we listen to children, finding out directly from them about their lives and concerns. We promote awareness of what they tell us about their lives, and prompt others to respond to and take action. Their involvement is clear in all our programmes of work, they influence and work alongside all we do, and their voices are clear in all our publications. This will be a central feature in the coming year.
Within our resources, which continue to diminish, our work will focus on key policy areas and professional practice which – for better or worse – affect children’s and young people’s lives. Working closely with partner organisations and children and young people themselves, we will respond to and seek to influence the society in which we and they live, learn, and exercise our citizenship. Our work will seek improvements for children and young people in England so that they can thrive in their personal lives and be supported to make positive contributions to society no matter what their background, current situation or challenges they are facing right now.
We will, through delivering this plan and preparing for the changes to come, continue to work with others to celebrate good practice and challenge wherever improvement is needed, so all our children and young people can thrive.
Dr Maggie Atkinson