Section 6 — Involving children and young people

Part of Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:30 pm on 26 March 2003.

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Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour 3:30, 26 March 2003

Section 6(1) places the commissioner under a general duty to encourage the involvement of children and young people in all his or her work. That is intended to ensure that the work is informed by the views of children and young people. The committee derived the approach from our view that the principles of consultation, participation and accessibility should underpin all the commissioner's work.

My understanding of amendment 1 is that it is meant to place a further duty on the commissioner to consult children and young people in the context of current work, and any reviews thereof, as well as on future work. I understand that it also intends to ensure consultation with children and young people on the commissioner's annual report.

I do not think that the amendment achieves what it intends. If a review of work involves looking back at work that has been completed—which is my understanding of a review—the amendment does not seem to cover on-going work. As for annual reports, I suggest that the amendment would have been clearer if it had been explicitly linked to section 10, which deals with annual reporting.

I will say emphatically for the Official Report that consultation as a duty will be a constant and crucial part of the commissioner's work. If the commissioner is not consulting and involving children and young people in their work, that will be a fundamental failure. However, it would be unrealistic to expect commissioners to be permanently engaged in consultation about all work that is being carried out, as they would then be able to do nothing else. The issue is about creating the right balance in how the commissioner carries out consultation and engages in inquiries and reports to the Parliament to enable us better to serve the children and young people whom we seek to serve.

In addition, the amendment's apparent aim—in particular, its use of the words "any reviews"—would result in a degree of confusion with section 6(4), which stipulates that the commissioner

"must prepare and keep under review a strategy for involving children and young people ... in accordance with this section."

Any such confusion would not be helpful.

Finally, ambiguity in the wording of the amendment might raise expectations that what is intended is a review of the kind of work that the commissioner is remitted to undertake—that is, a review of the commissioner's powers. The committee gave that matter careful consideration before we concluded that such a provision was not necessary. Instead, we envisage that once the office is established, the commissioner will wish to use his or her experiences to judge whether the powers that we have given are adequate. That could then be brought to the attention of the Parliament through the annual report.

I hope that the member will accept that children and young people are at the heart of the commissioner's work and that consulting and involving them is imperative to the post's success or failure. Given my explanation and assurances, I hope that she will withdraw amendment 1.