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LOCAL DEMOCRACY WEEK: CHILDREN TO HAVE THEIR SAY ON CHILDREN'S COMMISSIONER

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Margaret Hodge, minister for children, young people and families, ...
Margaret Hodge, minister for children, young people and families,

today said that children and young people will be involved in

recruiting the new children's commissioner.

Speaking at the start of Local Democracy Week she said:

'Establishing a children's commissioner will give children a strong

independent voice to influence what services are delivered for them

and how they are delivered. If the children's commissioner is to

truly represent children's views, children must be involved in

helping us to choose who the commissioner is. I am determined to

enable children to take part in the selection and appointment of our

first children's commissioner.

'We have made good progress in involving children, young people and

their families in decision-making. But we need to build on that and

we need to keep working to get better, so that listening and hearing

children's views becomes part of the culture.

'This week we are publishing our progress report on Learning to

Listen. This sets out the work by a number of government departments

to involve young people in their work. New and innovative schemes are

already in place to encourage young people's involvement in ways

which enthuse and engage them.

'The theme of Local Democracy Week this year is 'Listening to

tomorrow's voters today'. The Local Government Association is to be

congratulated on the work it is doing to encourage young people to

play an active part in their communities - and to encourage their

communities to listen to them.'

The government has issued a consultation document 'Get it Sorted'

looking at how we can enhance the support given to looked after

children and children in need. The purpose of the guidance is that

children and young people get help including advocacy services when

making or intending to make a complaint under the Children Act 1989.

The consultation process will close on 31 December. We would expect

local authorities to have appropriate advocacy support in place by

April 2004.

Later in 2003 the government will launch a research document

'Building a Culture of Participation' and an accompanying toolkit to

help government departments and other organisations to involve

children, young people and their families which will enable people to

involve these groups in their work.

NOTES

This Press Notice applies to England.

1. The appointment of a children's commissioner to act as an

independent champion for children's views was announced with the

publication of the Children's Green Paper 'Every Child Matters' on 08

September 2003. The children's commissioner will report to parliament

via the secretary of state for education and skills. The role will

include advising on children's issues, consulting children and

ensuring their views are fed into policy making.

2. Last July, the government announced the results of a project,

YVote?/YNot, to look at why young people seem uninterested in

politics and the political process. One of the pleas from the young

people who took part was that politicians come and speak to them 'on

their turf'. As a result, the DfES's Children and Young People's Unit

arranged a tour of ministers during June this year to hear the views

of young people in every region of England. A report will be sent to

the young people later this year.

3. The Children and Young People's Unit has commissioned a research

programme to map current participation practice, resources, skills

and experience which will report back next year. A £500,000

Consultation Fund is available for grants to voluntary organisations

for consultation activity with young people.

4. 'Get it Sorted - Providing Effective Advocacy Services for

Children Making a Complaint' - consultation on draft guidance and

regulations for England, is available on

www.dfes.gov.uk/consultations. Responses are welcome from local

authorities, advo cacy organisations, voluntary organisations,

advocates, children's rights officers, practitioners, complaints

officers, listening to children officers and children and young

people.

5. Why organisations should listen to younger people:

Their involvement in policy makes it preventive, rather than

reactive; Enables whole community work - 1 in 5 of the population is

under 16; Promotes a strong citizenship message, and encourages

voting; Delivers meaningful change through partnership with those

affected by it; and Has continuing resonance - young people grow up,

and will be more likely to interact later in life.

6. Further information on Local Democracy Week is available here.

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