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Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Ruth Kelly affair

The Welsh Education Minister has promised to make a statement in Plenary next week on the issue of registered sex offenders working in schools. What is surprising is that Jane Davidson does not appear to know whether Ruth Kelly has sanctioned anybody on the sex offenders' register to work in a Welsh school or not.

This may not be a devolved matter but at the very least it should be a matter of courtesy to tell the Welsh Assembly Government if such a person has been authorised to work in Wales. The job of tracking sex offenders appears to have been made more difficult by the fact that there are seven lists on which they can feature. After the Soham murders Michael Bichard recommended that these be amalgamated to form just the one reference point. However, we are told that this cannot be achieved until 2008.

That is not satisfactory and on Tuesday I will be urging the Welsh Education Minister to press her Westminster counterpart to move much more quickly on this issue.
Neath AM Gwenda Thomas’ report on her review on Safeguarding Vulnerable Children in Wales is due to be published in the very near future. I think it’s going to be quite an interesting read…

My understanding of the Bichard recommendations is that they are due to be implemented by a bill known as the ‘Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Post Bichard) Bill – which is actually in the Legislative programme. Information regarding this bill can be found here: http://www.commonsleader.gov.uk/output/Page994.asp there is, no doubt, that this bill should have been given urgent priority.
It'sa blindingly obvious that the maintainence of these lists needs to be done on a pan UK level and is not suitable to be devolved, however the decisions about whether to make an exception to permit employment in specific circumstances (presumably where efforts to recruit alternative, suitably qualified candidates have failed) should in principle be taken by the Welsh Minister if the school in question is in Wales.

I have to say i'm not convinced there is a legitimate public interest in publishing such decisions. This road leads to innocent paediatricians having to wash grafitti from illiterate yobs off their property.
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