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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Cherie calls for children's commissioner
Cherie Booth
Cherie Booth: Protect children's rights
Cherie Booth has called on her husband's government to do more to protect the rights of children.

Mrs Blair, who uses her maiden name Booth in her professional life, has joined those, including Esther Rantzen, who want a children's commissioner for the whole of the UK.

Without such a move, we risk children's rights continuing to languish near the bottom of the political agenda

Cherie Booth

There is already a children's commissioner in Wales with plans for more in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Ms Booth, a prominent human rights QC and president of children's charity Barnado's, said a UK-wide position would be a "symbolic demonstration" of the commitment to children and young people.

It could monitor children's rights in the UK as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and be a source of expertise on children's issues.

Languishing

She said: "It is high time the government gave serious consideration to following the majority of Europe and establishing such a post, and not as a separate office but as a commissioner integrated into a national human rights body.

"Without such a move, we risk children's rights continuing to languish near the bottom of the political agenda."

Ms Booth, at a lecture in London, to commemorate the life of childcare specialist Barbara Kahan, said there had been "encouraging signs" among politicians of tackling the issue of children's rights in recent years.

She said there were still concerns about youngsters in the UK, especially in housing, education, health, crime and the criminal justice system.

She told the audience that despite the UK signing the CRC in 1991, children were still not being given the full range of rights to which they are entitled.

Intimidated

Ms Booth said the government would be found "wanting" in areas such as juvenile justice, education, asylum seekers and refugees when monitoring body the Committee on the Rights of the Child met in October to evaluate how Britain was implementing the Convention.

Earlier this year Childline founder and television presenter Esther Rantzen said a commissioner was needed to protect young people from abuse and bullying.

She said children often felt too intimidated to go to police or other agencies about the abuse they suffer.

Ms Rantzen said one of the things that perturbed Childline most was that it was often the only place where children felt they could turn for help.

"One of the functions of a commissioner for children would be... to examine the whole area of children's interface with the law, particularly those who are the victims of crime" she said.

The House of Commons human rights committee is looking at whether there should be a separate commission, or whether the issue could be included in a new over-arching human rights commission.

See also:

10 Jun 02 | Politics
07 Mar 02 | N Ireland
28 Nov 01 | Europe
08 Dec 01 | England
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