Who’s the new Children’s Commissioner and what does this mean?

A young boy holding hands with an adult by the seaside

As we are about to welcome a new Children’s Commissioner, we look into what this unique role means and what they can do for disabled children across the UK.

Who is the Children’s Commissioner and what do they do?

The Children’s Commissioner is responsible for listening to children and young people to make sure policymakers take their interests into account when making decisions. The Commissioner is separate from the government and has unique powers to help bring about long-term change for children.

Today, 17th February, Anne Longfield has given her final speech as the current Children’s Commissioner for England. When her term in office comes to an end, she will be replaced by Dame Rachel de Souza.

A young girl playing with green toys, while being supported by a woman

Why is this important?

The outgoing Children’s Commissioner has done a significant amount of work to improve how the government listens to children and young people, and more recently in understanding the impact of Coronavirus on education and attainment.

Children with complex disabilities have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Many haven’t had access to the vital care and support they need to live safely, and have often not been able to access their education. Couple this with a SEND system (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) that is already under significant pressure and cannot meet the needs of many of the children it’s there to support, means that it’s harder for children with complex disabilities to have the best start in life.

With a new Commissioner coming in, we have an opportunity to bring a greater focus on giving disabled children a voice, in turn meaning more children with complex disabilities and their families living the life they want lead.

A boy smiling to a support worker. He is using a blue wheelchair.

What do we want to see from the next Children’s Commissioner?

We want to see the next Children’s Commissioner put a clear focus on disabled children. With the right support in place, children with complex disabilities can have a meaningful education, and make progress towards their goals and outcomes, living the lives they want to lead.

We want to see the Children’s Commissioner champion the rights of disabled children to policymakers in government, giving particular regard to the increased impact that the pandemic has had on disabled children and young people.

There is a lot of work going on inside and outside of government at the minute, to improve the systems of support around vulnerable and disabled children. This includes the Care Review, the SEND Review and the National Disability Strategy. It is vital that the Children’s Commissioner uses her powers to channel the voices of disabled children to ensure they are heard, and at the heart of this work.

We look forward to working with Dame Rachel de Souza when she takes up her role as the new Children’s Commissioner for England. 

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