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Children’s Commissioner weighs into government in her final speech in role

The outgoing Children’s Commissioner has issued a scathing attack on the government’s response to vulnerable children as she looked back on her 6 year term in office.

In a virtual speech to a conference of more than 2000 people she said "I have been shocked to discover how many government officials have never met any of the children they are responsible for. So many seem to view them as remote concepts or data points on an annual return. This is how children fall through the gaps – because too often the people in charge of the systems they need simply don’t see them and try to understand their world.

I criticised Government earlier for viewing children as data points. My point here is: you need to go underneath the headline data, understand the interactions, and see where the same child has multiple issues that combine to damage their life chances."

She called for silos within government to be eliminated saying “In Whitehall, children are pupils, or a child in care, or a patient on a mental health waiting list, or the recipient of an EHC plan. They have only one issue that concerns the departmental silo. The process comes before the child. Children and families are the recipient of multiple services. The same family can be hit by cuts to early help, family hubs, benefits and health visiting.

What Government seems unable to fathom is that children can be all of these things simultaneously, and that it is because they are still a child on a mental health waiting list that they have now become a child excluded from school, and will soon become a child in care.”

She went on to outline the following three challenges to Government and all political parties, asking:

Are you serious about children, and their life chances? Will you follow this through not just this month, but this year and next?

Do you understand the additional harm that has been done to children during the pandemic?

Are you serious about ‘building back better’ and ‘levelling up’? And will you put those children who were already disadvantaged at the centre of it?

Read the full speech here.