The Flemish Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner detects (warning) signs from children, young people, their immediate environment and professionals. It mediates, investigates complaints and provides policy advice - always with a view to compliance with and the application of children’s rights in Flanders.
An independent body of the Flemish Parliament
The Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner was created by Flemish Parliament Act (Decree creating a Commission for Children's Rights and establishing the post of Commissioner for Children's Rights, 15th July 1997) (217.67 kB). The Children's Rights Commissioner is appointed by the Flemish Parliament. Within the limits of his powers, the Children's Rights Commissioner does not receive instructions from any public authority. The Children's Rights Commissioner is entirely independent in the exercise of his functions.
The Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner reports on its work through an annual report submitted to the Flemish Parliament.
Consultative and advisory body
A consultative and advisory body provides support to the Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner in the performance of its duties. It is composed of representatives of the political groups in the Flemish Parliament and representatives of civil society and the scientific world.
The Children's Rights Commissioner
The first Children's Rights Commissioner was Ankie Vandekerckhove. She was appointed by the Flemish Parliament in June 1998. After completing two terms, she passed the baton to Bruno Vanobbergen in 2009. The Children's Rights Commissioner performs his duties together with a multidisciplinary team and translates these into a policy plan.
What does the Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner do?
Two spearheads in its functioning
- A Complaint Line for children and young people: investigation and mediation
- Advisory work for the Flemish Parliament, the Government of Flanders, administrations and agencies, international or foreign authorities.
Handling of complaints
The Complaint Line of the Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner
The Complaint Line of the Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner is available to young people under 18 and those defending their interests. Adults can file complaints as long as these concern the rights of an under 18.
Violation of children’s rights
Have the rights of an under 18 been violated by a public service or authority? Is a young person entangled in regulations and procedures? Or in his relationship with an organisation or body? In this case, the best thing for them to do is to turn to the Complaint Line of the Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner.
There, they can file complaints about violations of children’s and young people’s rights in different areas, such as healthcare, the environment, education, employment, justice, mobility, family, town and country planning, housing, facilities, sex and drugs.
The Complaint Line investigates and mediates
The Complaint Line investigates the complaints thoroughly and independently. The Complaint Line mediates and provides clear advice in order to translate the complaint into a solution in the interest of the child.
An investigation is started when all other means have been exhausted and no solution has been found. The first reference point is the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the legal framework. A second important reference point is the generally accepted standards for ombudspeople. These standards mainly have to do with the adequacy and thoroughness of the services provided by public authorities, services and facilities.
More information about the Complaint Line can be found on www.kinderrechten.be
Advisory work of the Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner
Some reports to the Complaint Line indicate that there is a deeper problem. One that requires action at policy level.
Does an individual complaint indicate unclear, inconsistent, discriminating or missing legislation? Or rules or practices that go against the Convention on the Rights of the Child? In such cases, we notify the competent authority of this. This does not solve the child’s problem immediately. But it can prevent the problems from happening again in the future.
Advice to policy-makers
The Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner translates the structural problems into dossiers, advice, opinions and reports on bottlenecks for the Flemish Parliament. It studies certain issues related to children’s rights and the underlying problems in depth in order to provide information and advice to the Flemish Parliament. It also indicates possible ways to translate these into Flemish regulations. It tests policy initiatives, such as draft Acts and proposals, against the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner gives advice on its own initiative or at the request of the Flemish Parliament.
Member of ENOC
The Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner is a member of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC). Within this network, 43 ombuds services for children exchange experiences and information about their operation. ENOC makes statements about Children's rights.