The Children’s Commissioner has been inundated with emails days after making a call to get in touch with the Office.
Rachel de Souza, who took up the role of Children’s Commissioner on 1 March, asked members of the public to email or call her if, “you can think of an unmet need for a child you know about”, and added, “If you are a child, and you are thinking about writing to us, don’t hesitate.”
Researching Reform shared de Souza’s invitation in a post published last week and included a link to the contact form on the Children’s Commissioner’s website.
The link in the post for the contact form was accessed several thousand times shortly after the post went live, but within 48 hours a growing number of individuals, many of whom were concerned parents with children in care, had begun to complain that they could no longer submit messages to the Commissioner.
Parents reported seeing a “processing” message appear after clicking “submit”, but no ensuing message to say the email had been sent, or any change in the page to suggest the email had gone through.
The Children’s Commissioner promised to look into the glitch on 5 March, after this site posted a tweet explaining what had happened. Following a tweet on 8 March to ask de Souza for an update, the Commissioner confirmed the issue had been resolved.
However in an apparent change to the contact form, a new notice had been added, which can be seen once an email is sent.
The message says, “Thank you for contacting the Children’s Commissioner for England.”
“While we appreciate you getting in touch, we are unable to respond to all correspondence due to the very high volume of emails we receive and limited staff capacity. We will always respond to emails directly from children.”
“All correspondence is read by a member of the Commissioner’s Policy Team. We will be in touch if we need more information from you.”
The notice poses several problems. Many children will be unable to send emails themselves because they will either be too young, unable to access the internet, or too frightened to reach out.
A significant number of parents with children in care are deeply concerned by the way in which their children are being looked after, and are often the only voice their children have. That is because children in care can be wary of raising concerns about the people who are currently caring for them, or the harm they may be experiencing.
And given that the Children’s Commissioner has little to no experience of the care system, reading all of the emails she receives would be an invaluable introduction into the serious problems inside the child welfare sector. These emails are priceless.