What is the Children’s Commissioner and what are your aims?
As Children’s Commissioner it is my duty to promote and protect the rights of all children, with particular regard to children who are living away from home or receiving social care services.
Every week I speak to children and young people in all kinds of places including schools, care homes and Young Offenders Institutions about their hopes and dreams as well as their concerns. My key priorities which focus on a better world, community, children’s social care, school, family, jobs and skills, and health are all based around what children have told me.
Over the last three years I have worked extensively on attendance, keeping children safe online, access to mental health services, crime and the strip searching of children, children living in secure institutions be that hospitals or Young Offender Institutions, experience of siblings in care and advocacy, youth work – amongst many other things.
How have you witnessed children and young people participating in politics?
As a former teacher, headteacher and school trust leader for over 30 years, I have seen first-hand how passionate children are. This is an ambitious generation that wants to succeed in life and wants to play its part in improving the world around them.
All too often I think, as adults, we take for granted the chance to influence and elect governments through voting, but no one really asks young people what they want – although it is their futures that are often most heavily affected by today’s decision making.
That’s why I think it is important that as we approach the General Election this year, the views of children and young people are heard. Heard and then taken into account by those people who make the decisions. That’s why I launched The Big Ambition, a national survey of children and young people across England, last September to hear what you think needs to change and what you would do differently, so I can tell politicians.
During your campaign, The Big Ambition, you’ve been listening to what matters to young people across the UK. What has surprised you about the issues raised by young people?
I have heard about many positive aspects of young people’s lives, what makes young people happy and how ambitious you are. You want to grow up in safe and loving homes with access to brilliant schools, and in areas where there are fun things to do. You are curious and excited, and you want to change the future for the better.
I’ve also heard about what worries you. I know that many young people concerned about mental health, online safety and bullying. Many of you have told me about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on you as well as your families more widely.
This generation is bright and optimistic. As well as telling me about the challenges you face you have told me about how we can solve problems, and what you want the people who make decisions to do. I will be feeding what you have told me back to those in power.
How will you bring the voices of young people to decision makers in 2024 to make change?
My priority has always been to listen to children across the county, to hear about your lives and what you want and need to help you succeed. Through my work I have heard about the experiences of children of all ages, their lives today, their dreams for the future and their ideas for how we can help children achieve their ambitions.
Many of you have told me that you don’t feel listened to by people making decisions that affect you. I am here to change that with The Big Ambition. More than 360,000 young people and some parents/carers took part in the survey and after we have analysed the results, I will be sharing the findings far and wide.I will go to the politicians with our evidence to make the changes you are calling for.
As part of The Big Ambition, I am excited to be working with my Ambassadors, a group of young people aged 16-17 from all over England. My Ambassadors will share the voices of children from The Big Ambition, and between us I hope we can make politicians listen and act on the things that are important to children and young people.
What is your encouragement to young people that youth voice matters?
Your views and opinions should be respected and taken into consideration in relation to what happens to you. My role and the role of my Ambassadors is to champion your voice, making sure that Government and policy makers take your views into account when making decisions that affect you.
You may not all have a vote yet, but I am making it my mission to ensure that you have a voice that counts.