Some of the most disadvantaged children in England are this month taking over top roles in Whitehall – sitting in the hot seat of the most influential jobs in Government.
An army of 100 children in care and care leavers are being handed the reins as the Children’s Commissioner for England’s Takeover Challenge 2016 takes Whitehall by storm.
Twenty-two Secretaries of state and Ministers in Departments ranging from Ministry of Justice and the Home Office to the Foreign Office, as well as hundreds of MPs, 14 Permanent Secretaries and the highest ranking senior servants are all taking a back seat for the day throughout the remainder of November and putting children in charge.
Top Government, Parliamentary and other roles being taken over this year include:
- Leader of the House of Commons
- Director of the Crown Prosecution Service
- Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions
- Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
- Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations
- Minister of State for International Development
- Minister of State for Health
- Minister of State for Housing and Planning
- Minster for Employment
- Minister for Disabled People
- Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse
- Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women, Equalities and Early Years
- Government Chief Scientific Adviser
In some of the highest profile roles in the land, children and young people will be making sure Government hears them, representing Ministers at top meetings, working with civil servants on new policies, asking the questions that matter to them and speaking at high profile events.
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “Children are taking Westminster by storm over the next two weeks with unique opportunities to take on roles at the heart of government and elsewhere.
“These are fantastic experiences for young people which could be the start of great careers and ambitions. I’m particularly pleased that so many children who live in care are taking over Whitehall as this group are often the ones who struggle to get the jobs and breaks they dream of.
“But there is also a very serious point for government too. The views of children are often overlooked when decisions are made. Takeover puts children at the centre of decision-making. There’s an urgent need to improve the opportunities and support for children in care and care leavers.”
Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said:
“I am proud to support the Whitehall takeover challenge which offers looked after children a fantastic opportunity to find out more about how the world works. I had a great time with Jake on Friday, who offered me a fresh perspective on decision making in this country. I look forward to supporting the challenge again in the future.”
It is a stark fact that despite improvements, only 6% of care leavers enter higher education, compared to 47% of the general population. Almost four in ten (38%) care leavers are not in education, employment or training (NEET), compared with 11% of all young people.
Information the Commissioner recently gathered from local authorities found that a far lower proportion of those in care (16-18 year-olds) or care leavers (19-21 year-olds) are on apprenticeship schemes than peers in the general population.
Whitney, from West London, who took over the role of Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, said: “It was a fascinating and inspiring day. I learned loads. It really made me think about what I want to do. I had meetings with lots of departments, told them what I thought about various issues and it opened my eyes to the huge amount of work going on behind the scenes in Government.
“I’m involved with a charity that speaks to children and young people about youth justice and I really want to work in this kind of area.”
The Takeover of Whitehall has been organised as part of the Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Challenge which is set to over 45,000 children and young people across England takeover over 1,000 organisations. Other dream take overs include Sky, the BBC, Channel 4 and Manchester City Football clubs alongside arts organisations, businesses, emergency services and over 80 local authorities.