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Children's Commissioner's statement on the outcome of the Dunford Review

Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, said:

"Today is an encouraging step forward for children's rights in England.

"The Coalition Government and Secretary of State for Education have clearly demonstrated their vision and commitment to children, young people and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by the acceptance in principle of all of Dr Dunford's recommendations.

"I am delighted that much of what Dr  Dunford has concluded reinforces our direction of travel - and builds upon the significant impact we have already had on protecting children and promoting their rights most notably those seeking asylum, in prison and requiring the protection of the family courts.

"I feel sure that by building on our solid foundation and significant achievements, particularly for children and young people, who are vulnerable, that these recommendations will undoubtedly create a stronger, more independent advocate for children and young people in England.    

"I am heartened, therefore, in the light of our firm focus on youth justice, safeguarding and the asylum process, that a legislative mandate to promote and safeguard children's rights will now be sought.

"My team and I are absolutely committed, in every way possible, to ensuring that these very welcome recommendations are implemented as swiftly as possible. 

"We are ready to commence work immediately with the Government and other partners to implement the transition building on our sound record of securing improvements for the most vulnerable.

"It is great news for children that the Government has made a commitment to having a truly independent commissioner to speak and act on their behalf." 

NOTES TO EDITORS

1) Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, is available for interviews via the Office of the Children's Commissioner's (OCC) communications team. 

2) A copy of the submission by the Office of the Children's Commissioner to the independent Review can be found at: http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/content/publications/content_423

3) Our strong track record on improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in England includes the following: 

Mental health - instrumental in ending the practice of placing 16 and 17 year olds on adult mental health wards by publishing detailed research on experiences of young people in such circumstances.  Partner: YoungMinds.   

Improving social work - significant input into improving social worker training and practice arising from research into the views of highly vulnerable children and families who have experienced difficult relationships with social care services. Partner: Centre 4 Excellence and Outcomes. 

Transparency in family courts - research with children about the impact of allowing the media access into family court proceedings was widely referenced in the parliamentary debates about this important issue. The Government has now ordered a review into transparency. Partner:  University of Oxford, Oxford Centre for Family Law.  

Child protection/asylum - using our powers of entry and to examine records, serious child protection concerns were uncovered at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal and Detention Centre. The matter was referred to the Local Safeguarding Children Board for detailed investigation and has resulted in significant improvements in the protection and welfare of children detained for immigration purposes. The Commissioner's report on the impact of detention on children in families seeking asylum has been a major contribution to the debate to end this practice. Partners: NSPCC, NHS.

Legal interventions. We have intervened in legal cases on a number of occasions including:
a) R(A) v  London  Borough of Croydon and R (M) v  London  Borough of Lambeth.
The OCC intervened at the High Court stage and again when the case went to the Supreme Court. The principle argument put that the Courts should be the arbiter in age determination disputes was accepted.

Youth justice. Using our powers of entry some serious concerns were identified in a number of secure institutions with significant improvements secured including:  the ending of humiliating strip searching practices in a secure setting and the routine searching of children after every visit; appointment of appropriately qualified mental health professionals in a secure setting where previously none had been trained in child and adolescent mental health; deep clean of an institution following identification of very poor standards of hygiene.

Bullying. OCC was instrumental in bringing together organisations to tackle bullying and chairs the Anti-Bullying Alliance.

Consultations and reviews. We are frequently asked to feed children's views and opinions into consultations and reviews. Over the last six months alone we have responded to over 16 consultations and calls for evidence. At the request of the Government, we will be gathering children's views over the coming months on the commercialisation of childhood, child poverty and the issues being considered by the children and family task force

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