1.The Children’s Commissioner gives a national voice to all children and young people, especially the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. It is an appointment made by the Secretary of State for Education under Schedule 1 to the Children Act 2004. The primary function of the post is “promoting and protecting the rights of children”, with a particular focus on ensuring that the views of the most vulnerable children are heard; and that the rights of children in vulnerable circumstances are upheld. The Commissioner’s statutory remit is set out in Part 1 and Schedule 1 of the Children Act 2004, as amended by Part 6 and Schedule 5 of the Children and Families Act 2014.
2.The Children’s Commissioner has wide powers, extended by the Children and Families Act 2014, to hold inquiries into issues of public policy of relevance to children. Notably, the Commissioner has the authority to require any public body to provide information the Commissioner may reasonably request. The Commissioner can also make representations on behalf of a child where the child is in care, enter any premises (other than a private dwelling) for the purpose of interviewing a child or for the purpose of observing the standard of care provided to children. The Commissioner may also interview a child in private if the child consents.
3.The Children’s Commissioner must represent children in parts of the UK outside England on issues that are not devolved to the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These include immigration, for the whole of the UK, and youth justice, for England and Wales.
4.The Children’s Commissioners is one of five positions subject to a pre-appointment hearing by the Education Select Committee (see appendix 1).
5.As part of their wider role in scrutinising Government, select committees scrutinise some senior public appointments made by Ministers. This is to help ensure that the candidate is suitable for the post.
6.On 8 December 2020, the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon. Gavin Williamson CBE MP, wrote to us to say that Dame Rachel de Souza, the Chief Executive at Inspiration Trust, had been chosen as the Government’s preferred candidate to take up the post of Children’s Commissioner for England. The Committee was invited to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the candidate. The Secretary of State’s letter, the candidate’s curriculum vitae and a memorandum provided by the Government, which sets out the requirements of the post, along with details of the recruitment process, are all appended to this Report.
7.We accordingly invited Dame Rachel to attend a pre-appointment hearing on Tuesday 15 December.
8.In advance of the hearing, we held an accountability hearing with the current Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield OBE, to ascertain her views on the role and the challenges likely to be faced by her successor.
9.We would like to put on record our thanks to the outgoing Children’s Commissioner, for the important work that she has done over the last five years.
1 Children’s Commissioner, , p1