Maggie Atkinson's prior appointment as Children's Commissioner attracted considerable criticism. In 2010 following a lengthy selection process Ed Balls, the former Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, announced that she was the preferred candidate. When the newly created Parliamentary Education Select Committee rejected her appointment Ed Balls simply over rode their objections.
Who determined that we should have a Children's Commissioner and what exactly is their remit?
According to their own website 'the Children's Commissioner has 'a statutory duty to promote and protect the rights of all children in England in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child'. It also tells us that 'the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends that countries should ideally have an individual such as a Children's Commissioner or Ombudsman responsible for children's rights'.
Shortly after her appointment Maggie Atkinson entered controversial waters with some insensitive comments about UK sentencing policy. She had described 'James Bulgers killing as "exceptionally unpleasant" but said Venables and Thompson, who were 10 in 1993, had been too young to understand the consequences of their actions and it was wrong they were tried in an adult court'. According to Atkinson 'they should have undergone "programmes" to help turn their lives around, rather than being prosecuted'.
I wonder what sort of 'programmes' she had in mind. A flavour of Atkinson's own mindset is perhaps best illustrated by the following extract taken from a talk given whilst she was group director, Learning and Children, Gateshead Council, and President of the Association of Directors of Childrens Services.
'In a nutshell, people aged pre-birth to 19, who live work and study in my place are my responsibility. If they are registered with a Gateshead GP, they use our children centres, play or parenting services, schools or the local college; if they get a bucketful of GCSEs, A levels and Diplomas and if they don't; if they want to engage with us and if they don't; if they win the Duke of Edinburgh award at any level or are star volunteers, performers, campaigners, spokespeople, community activists already young leaders and citizens; if they need support because they have a special need because they can't or they won't communicate or are on a therapeutic programme or are a young carer; if they live in a settled or troubled family; if they need low level mental and emotional support or far more specialist and robust interventions, are in need, at risk, have a child protection plan, are young parents themselves, young offenders (incarcerated or otherwise), or those young offenders victims; if they are ill or disabled; if they die, aged under 18, from whatever cause; if they are in danger of being taken into, are already in or have recently left care... put simply.. They are mine'.
Chillingly she continued
'And so are their families, their schools, the other settings they use and everybody in their communities'.
In Supporting Parents written in 2011 Maggie Atkinson wrote
'It takes a community to raise a rounded child. Community support and social networks play a vital role in parenting. The report shows 27 per cent of parents find the lack of a community support network the biggest obstacle they face as a parent: this was a higher proportion than those who identified the biggest problem as the relationship with their partner (22 per cent). We need to look at ways this can be improved from supporting community organisers to mentoring and involving parents in services where they can meet others'.
In the 'supporting community organisers' linked article the author of that piece writes
'Best of all would be to live in a society – a Big Society – where the quality of social relationships and human well-being, rather than the relentless pursuit of wealth, are the focus of attention'.
Maggie Atkinson is currently a Director in iMPOWER's children's services consultancy, policy and practice team working with local and national government and partners on service and systems improvement.
In September 2015 her earlier LinkedIn profile evidenced her connection with the pseudo education charity Common Purpose.
For what purpose would Ed Balls wish to over-ride a Parliamentary Select Committee in 2010 and appoint Maggie Atkinson as Children's Commissioner? Would it be cynical of us to suggest a pre-planned appointment of a Common Purpose trained operative into a UN specified role just two years prior to the introduction of the UNs own Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development? For it was in that document that Global Social Work bodies claimed to 'feel compelled to advocate for a New World Order'.
Is this a further example of the operation of the Common Purpose Effect?