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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Failing vulnerable children

Whilst Assembly Members and the Cardiff-based media have been obsessing about Alun Davies, some more serious problems have been slipping under the radar.

The Western Mail reports that fourteen years after the landmark Waterhouse inquiry into child abuse in care homes called for young people to have the help of an independent advocate, too many do not have this important service.

The Children's Commissioner has produced a a major report, Missing Voices: Right to be Heard.
in which he highlights “an apparent lack of necessary drive and determination” within the Welsh Government to push forward changes that would make a real difference to vulnerable young people:

He said: “I can’t deny that there has been some progress but it has been patchy and it has been slow. There have been too many excuses for why change has not happened more quickly and in the meantime the situation for children and young people remains much the same.

“Advocacy is a primary safeguarding service and we cannot accept the current situation where access to, and quality of advocacy is a postcode lottery for our most vulnerable children and young people.

The current prominence of historic child abuse scandals demonstrates the immediate need to get advocacy right for children and young people today.

“Advocacy enables us to create a climate where we listen to children and young people, a culture where we can better protect our children. In short, advocacy safeguards children and young people.”

According to his latest report, 63% of 384 children in care questioned did not know who their advocacy provider was.

At present, according to the Commissioner’s office, “every local authority has a statutory obligation to provide an independent professional ‘voice’, also known as an advocate, for every looked after child and young person, care leaver and child in need who want to take part or comment on decisions about their lives.”

These advocates should also be provided if the child or young person wants to make a complaint.

Today’s report calls on the Welsh Government to “develop a national model of commissioning independent professional advocacy services” and for local authorities to make “an active offer of advocacy for every child and young person entering the care system.”

Perhaps the Welsh Government should turn its attention to this issue now.
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