Children’s Commissioner for England criticised in report

Maggie Atkinson, the current Children’s Commissioner for England, has been criticised in an official review of the post.

In the review, author John Dunford highlights concerns over “high-profile media interventions” by the Children’s Commissioner.

He said a “number of consultees” had drawn his attention to the “interventions”, which they argued were “ill-judged and undermined the credibility of the role.”


Dr Atkinson was previously the head of children’s services at Gateshead Council, which in 2008 struck off a foster carer when a Muslim girl in her care converted to Christianity.

Mr Dunford is a former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. The Department for Education asked him to carry out the review.

His report said: “In some cases, the Commissioner has made assertions or offered opinions without providing the supporting evidence.”


It continued: “While it is important for the Commissioner to champion the interests of children and be an outlet for their views, this does not mean that the Commissioner can speak authoritatively on any subject relating to children.”

Mr Dunford’s review looked specifically at the post of the Children’s Commissioner for England, but there are also posts for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The report claimed that: “The other Commissioners have similar powers and resources at their disposal, but through having expert knowledge of the subject, grounded in evidence, they have had more influence and the role is more widely respected.”

The review concluded that the post of Children’s Commissioner should continue but that there needed to be “a strong focus on issues relating to the most vulnerable children”.


In July the foster carer who had been struck off won her legal battle against Gateshead Council.

The woman had been banned from fostering by the Council in November 2008, for failing to prevent the Muslim girl in her care from getting baptised.

The unnamed girl was aged 16 at the time and had made up her own mind to change her religion.


Gateshead’s decision to deregister the foster carer was quashed by the High Court after the Council admitted it had acted unlawfully.

The carer, a churchgoer in her 50s who has fostered more than 45 children, brought a Judicial Review against the Council after she had exhausted every other available remedy.

Her lawyers said the Council had failed to take account of the girl’s right to religious liberty and had acted disproportionately in deregistering the foster carer.

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