Dame Rachel de Souza starts children's commissioner role

Rachel de Souza, outgoing chief executive of the Inspiration Trust

Dame Rachel de Souza, the new children's commissioner for England. - Credit: Tom Barnes

The former chief executive of a Norfolk academy trust has begun her tenure as England's children's commissioner, with a call for a "golden age" to deliver more for young people.

Dame Rachel de Souza headed the Inspiration Trust, which runs 14 schools across Norfolk and Suffolk, before taking on her new role - to promote and protect the rights of children.

And, Dame Rachel, in her first message as children's commissioner, said she wanted those in power to do even more for children than in the post war years - a decade which saw pivotal changes such as the Education Act, the creation of UNICEF and the Children's Act.

Dame Rachel said: "If you work with children, it is tempting to see our current predicament as daunting.

"Perhaps, but it is also a huge opportunity. My predecessors have also started at epochal moments in recent history, whether a financial crisis, or defining our future as a nation, and managed to keep a political focus on the needs of children.

"In 2021, the challenge is even greater. In terms of economic, social and cultural shocks – in terms of deaths – this is a post-war generation in all but name."

She said the post-war years had seen adults take responsibility for children's futures and she wanted an equally committed approach now.

She said: "When I hand over in six years time, I want to look back at six years in which adults in power in this country have done even more for children than the post-war generation.

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"I want to see not just a golden age of policy-making, but a golden age of delivery. That is how I saw my role in schools and that is how I see my role now: to deliver.

"We know the challenges – the human cost of the pandemic; the bereavement; rising rates of domestic abuse; vulnerable children; estrangement; children in care or specialist units; children with SEND; a mental health epidemic; social inequality; regional inequality; rising unemployment; economic restructuring. recession; the conflicts between more austerity and a reduction in public services and more debt which could be passed on to our children; access to further education; access to opportunity.

"The list is long, and in every particular children’s futures are on the line."