Anne Longfield

Anne Longfield
Children's Commissioner for England
Assumed office
2015
Preceded by Maggie Atkinson
Personal details
Born 1960
Nationality United Kingdom

Anne Elizabeth Longfield OBE (born 1960) is the Children's Commissioner for England.[1] She was formerly chief executive of the charity 4Children.

She was appointed the Children's Commissioner for England in March 2015. The role is to bring about long term change and improvements for all children, and in particular the most vulnerable, with a special focus on those in care.

She has powers of data collection under section 2f of The Children's Act (2014) as well as powers of inspection over any institution where children may be housed. These powers were added to the office from the original 2004 act which established the Children's Commissioner's role. The Commissioner is independent of Government, children’s agencies, the voluntary and private sector.

She has always described the role as “being the eyes and ears of children within the system[2]”, and sees her remit to “shine a light” on areas where the system fails, or inadequately supports children and to speak up on behalf of them, without fear or favour.

She speaks on behalf of all the 12 million children in England and has special responsibility for the 78,000 children[3] who are looked after by the state or described as “in care” in some form.

Prior to her appointment as Children’s Commissioner, Anne was Chief Executive of a leading national children’s charity which delivered early years support, school support and youth services.

In 2015, shortly after starting her new role as children's Commissioner, Longfield was criticised for removing her Deputy, Sue Berelowitz, with an enhanced severance package, and then immediately hiring her back as a consultant. It transpired that this had taken place without securing the required approval from government ministers and was therefore an abuse of her powers. The arrangement was subsequently cancelled as a result of media attention and the organisation ordered to repay to HM Treasury £10,000 of misused public funds.[4]

Over her time in office the Commissioner has worked on issues affecting children’s mental health, put forward proposals for giving children more power over their digital lives, published regular  research on the experience of children in care, and launched a major long term study and data index on vulnerable children invisible to the state.[5] Under these main areas of research she has made many public interventions, and published a large number of detailed reports exploring, explaining and advocating various solutions to specific aspects of these subjects. She has seen a number of them put into place by Government.

Longfield has made many appearances in print and on broadcast media arguing the case for better services, resources and outcomes and even understanding of any services targeted at children. She has made similar representations to Government both local and national. She has created the country’s only national digital platform for Children in Care, IMO. Which has a very strong user base. Her dedicated helpline “Help at Hand[6]” works daily to address problems raised by children in care and secure positive outcomes to change those children’s day to day lives. It helps around a thousand children a year.

In 2020 her office had to respond to the coronavirus pandemic  producing bespoke materials to explain the virus and lockdown to children (a report downloaded 40,000 times) and highlighting the impact of the crisis on children - especially vulnerable children.  She has campaigned since May to see all schools open for all school age children in September. She has said in any further restrictions to curb the spread of Covid19 schools should be “last to close and first to re-open[7]".

Views

Longfield is concerned about the effect of benefit cuts on vulnerable children in low income families. Longfield stated that universal credit and wider welfare reforms disproportionately affect single parents. Longfield stated, “There is a great risk here that the government looks like it’s going back to an outdated… viewpoint which is demonising both single parents but also families claiming benefit, and working mothers.”[8]

She has strongly argued for large digital platforms that are used by children to have greater responsibility and response to complaints from child users and has called for legislation in England to tackle perceived reluctance on such platforms to do so.[9]

She has stated that waiting times and coverage of children’s mental health services are too long, and insufficient for need.[10]

She has called for review and overhaul of childrens services across England and a much more “joined up approach[11]” to providing services that prevent the need for greater intervention at a later stage in a child’s life.

She believes there should be a register of children home schooled in England to better support those who have exercised their right to home school.[12]

She has called for greater co-ordination of police, the justice system, NHSE and children’s services to tackle gang involvement, violent knife crime and the distribution of illegal drugs known as “county lines”. She has said “No child should ever end up as a headline about gangland murder or organized exploitation simply because nobody in the system thought it was their job to keep them safe[13].”

Personal life

Anne lives in Yorkshire and is married with a son. She is a former student of Prince Henry's Grammar School, Otley.[14]

References

  1. ^ The Children’s Commissioner for England is Anne Longfield OBE. Children’s Commissioner for England. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  2. ^ "About the Children's Commissioner for England". Children's Commissioner for England. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Children looked after in England including adoption: 2018 to 2019". GOV.UK. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  4. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11645002/Child-safety-chief-stripped-of-lucrative-consultancy-contract.html
  5. ^ "Our work". Children's Commissioner for England. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Help at Hand". Children's Commissioner for England. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Longfield: Prioritise education in future lockdowns". Schools Week. 4 August 2020. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  8. ^ Conservative party risk ‘demonising’ single parents with benefits cuts, warns children’s commissioner The Independent
  9. ^ Sellgren, Katherine (30 January 2019). "Social media companies 'failing children'". BBC News. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  10. ^ "Comprehensive mental health service for children still a long way off". www.mind.org.uk. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  11. ^ correspondent, Sally Weale Education (30 January 2020). "England 'decade away' from decent children mental health services". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Children's Commissioner for England calls for a compulsory register of "off the grid" children". Children's Commissioner for England. 4 February 2019. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  13. ^ "Gangs and Criminal Exploitation: Policy context". CYP Now. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  14. ^ Longfield, Anne (17 November 2017). "Absolute pleasure to spend time at my old school @PrinceHenrysGS talking about soc media, wellbeing, mental health #impressive @jg_ccpresspic.twitter.com/GI6Xez8F2Z". @annelongfield. Retrieved 18 November 2017.


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