Debate on Draft Children's Rights Scheme PDF Print E-mail

 

27/03/12

 

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My Plenary response at Stage 1 as Chair of Legislation Committee 5 which scrutinised the then proposed Rights of the Children and Young Person Measure noted that we agreed there was need for legislation to further the application of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, thereby strengthening the rights of children and young people in Wales.

 

We also recommended that a duty to consult and involve Children, Young People and relevant stakeholders in developing the Children’s Scheme – and todays debate now call son us to approve the draft Children’s Rights Scheme.

 

The United Nations Convention clearly states a child’s right to be protected from neglect. The UNCRC requires governments to support families. Children who are neglected are often unable to access their wider rights to education, health and play.

 

Action for Children and the University of Stirling have recently published findings of the research which asks how good we are at recognising neglect and how well we address it.

 

"Child Neglect 2011: An Annual Review" found that more than half of social workers, and a third of police officers feel ‘powerless’ to intervene in cases of child neglect.

 

Child Neglect ruins lives, robs young people of the childhood they deserve and stops children from fulfilling their potential.

 

A Welsh summary of the research highlights some of the innovative approaches to tackling neglect in Wales.

 

Now more needs to be done.

 

The report makes specific recommendations and calls on Welsh Government to ensure agencies work together to fully understand the scale and impact of neglect in every area of Wales and provide early intervention to help families before problems escalate.

 

The Welsh Government announced yesterday that it was rolling out its Programme of Integrated Family Support Services across Wales – and we welcome this.

 

However, this programme was first evaluated under the Early Parental Intervention Pilot in 5 Third Sector projects including Barnardos Cymru in Flintshire.

 

The Welsh Government has still not publically responded to the evaluation of this pilot and I am concerned at reports that Local Authorities pioneering Integrated Family Support failed to engage with the charities involved in the pilot.

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During Stage 2 and 3 of the Rights of the Child and Young Persons Measure, Welsh Conservatives tabled an amendment which would have ensured that Welsh Ministers had regard to the transition period children go through in their journey into becoming adults - who, by virtue of their age, cease to benefit from the protection of the Convention, and to the need to plan for the transition to adult services.

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We believe that there is a need to carefully plan children’s transition into adult services after they cease to be protected by the UNCRC.

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This essential transition phase must be addressed in the Rights – based approach for young people aged 18-24 to be consulted on later this year.

Prompted by cases where councils were unaware of their legal obligation

Last week’s Children’s Commissioner’s for Wales report on Advocacy services highlighted the failure of some councils to provide advocacy services for looked after children.

As the Commissioner said "Young people were having decisions "being made about them, without them".

Further to my involvement in a child abuse case which eventually secured convictions I recently received a letter from the County Council which included "a significant point raised by Mr Isherwood was the opportunity to seek an appropriate advocate for Child X.

I intend to follow up on this and cannot explain why this was not offered at the time".

One of the core aims of the Welsh Government’s Draft is to have access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities.

 

Defeated Welsh Conservatives Amendments tabled to the Children and Families measure questioned the change of Welsh Government definition of Play, highlighting concerns expressed by Play Organisations that inclusion of the words "includes any recreational activity" pulled against play works principles and was a massive step backwards.

Play is a developmental process, an innate human need, not a wide range of recreational activities.

 

Our Amendments also called for "sufficient" play opportunities were available to children – where a number of consultees had questioned whether there was enough detail in the proposed Measure on what constitutes "sufficient" play opportunities.

 

Children in Wales questioned who would judge the level of sufficiency in an area.

Fields in Trust went on to suggest that sufficiency should be judged against measures of quality, quantity and accessibility.

 

I conclude by reiterating the calls by UNICEF and Save the Children for Annual reports by the Welsh Government Implementation Team setting out compliance with the due regard duty –

 

 

  • And for an effective mechanism for children and young people to challenge the Welsh Government on failure to comply with the due regard.
 

Promoted by Mark Isherwood AM at National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF99 1NA

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