Parliamentary committee report on reform of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner

The Joint Committee on Human Rights report ‘Reform of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner: draft legislation’ was published on 7 December 2012.

The report looks at the draft clauses on the reform of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England. These are expected to form part of a bill to be brought before Parliament early in 2013.

The Committee welcomes these as a significant human rights enhancing measure and a step-change in the UK’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It particularly welcomes the change in the Commissioner’s function from one of promoting awareness of the views and interests of children to one of promoting and protecting their rights.

However, it also recommends that:

  • the Bill should expressly define ‘the rights of children in England’ to include the rights in the UNCRC, the rights of children in any other international treaty ratified by the UK, and the rights in the Optional Protocols ratified by the UK.
  • it should be made clear in the legislation that the Commissioner should be responsible for promoting and protecting children’s rights or interests in domestic law or statutory guidance where these are more extensive than those in the UNCRC.
  • the draft clauses should be amended to include an explicit reference to the Commissioner’s function of monitoring the United Kingdom’s implementation of the UNCRC.
  • the title of the Commissioner should be changed to include ‘young people’ as well as ‘children’, both in order to encourage older teenagers to consider the Commissioner of relevance to them, and to reflect the fact that the Commissioner will have functions in relation to certain 18–24-year-olds.

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