As the Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes its ‘Case for a Children’s Commissioner for England’ later today, Family Education Trust registers its concern that the establishment of such a statutory office would not serve the best interests of children, but would rather operate as a vehicle to advance a radical ‘children’s rights’ agenda, undermining parents and threatening the autonomy of the family unit.
The Trust’s Director, Robert Whelan, said, ‘In the vast majority of cases, children have parents who are well able to represent their interests, and we find it disturbing that the assumption is being made that a commissioner would fulfil this advocacy role more adequately than parents. Most parents do far more to promote and protect the rights and interests of their children than any statutory office will ever do. Parents are far better placed and equipped to represent the interests of their children than any impersonal mechanism or bureaucratic machine.’
‘We are particularly concerned that the appointment of a children’s commissioner in England would lead to a transfer of authority and responsibility for children’s upbringing away from parents to the state, affecting sensitive areas such as child discipline and sexual conduct. In the course of its inquiry, the Joint Committee on Human Rights received evidence from the President of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health which gave grounds for fears that a children’s commissioner could exacerbate the tendency to promote the “sexual rights” of the child to the detriment of parental authority. Yet, where adults gain access to children without the knowledge and consent of their parents, there is always considerable risk of exploitation.’
While campaigners for a children’s commissioner are currently playing down the suggestion that he or she might have access to the family home, that is clearly the goal on which they have set their sights. Peter Newell, chairman of the umbrella group, Children’s Rights Alliance for England, told the Committee that to advocate such powers ‘at this point…would probably delay us having a children’s commissioner for many more years’. He therefore considered it ‘unhelpful to advocate a direct right of access for the commissioner to the family home’ at present.
Mr Whelan commented: ‘As the children’s rights agenda unfolds, little by little, the authority and responsibilities of parents will be whittled away and transferred to an unelected and unaccountable statutory office with the power to impose a whole philosophy and pattern of childrearing on every home in the land.
‘Campaigners for the appointment of a “children’s champion” have tended to entertain the most unrealistic expectations for the office, presenting it as the panacea for all childhood ills. In reality, though, what children need more than anything else is a mother, father and a loving home. If the government is concerned about promoting the best interests of children, the most positive thing it can do is to promote stable family life, based on marriage, and encourage children to value and respect their parents.’