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Charity opposes merging of Children's Commissioner role

22 January 2009

Children 1st has spoken out against proposals that the post of Children’s Commissioner be merged with the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

The Scottish Government wants to reduce the number of publicly funded commissions or commissioners, sometimes referred to as "tsars", from six to three, to be achieved in part by this merger.

The charity says it is essential that children and young people have someone whose role is solely to represent their voices to those making decisions that affect them.

It maintains that children's perceptions and views are not always the same as those of adults, and the impact of policies on them can be different.

Further, children and young people have additional rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and it is important that awareness of these is raised so that they can be fully implemented.

Anne Houston, chief executive of Children 1st, said: "One sign of a healthy society is where different voices are heard and listened to in order to arrive at the best decisions. We are concerned that the proposed merger will lead to the diminishing of children and young people's distinct voice, rights and needs in the public arena. Many children and young people are not even aware of their rights and rely on adults to inform them.”

The charity believes that Scotland is far from having a culture where children's rights are fully respected and implemented, and that a separate Commissioner for Children and Young People is essential in a country whose Government is committed to fully implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Children’s Commissioner post was established in 2003.

Ms Houston added: "The establishment of the Commissioner's office was strongly welcomed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and to lose this would make Scotland out of step with the rest of Europe and wider world. England, Wales and Northern Ireland all have such commissioners and it is widely recognised that they are essential for promoting and ensuring child wellbeing."

Earlier this week Dr Jim Dyer, the retiring Standards Commissioner for the Scottish Parliament, spoke out against the merging of his role under the proposals: see .


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