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Directors of social services have welcomed the government's response to the Waterhouse Report, published today, as ...
Directors of social services have welcomed the government's response to the Waterhouse Report, published today, as being fully consistent with the important steps taken so far to eradicate abuse from the child care system.

But, according to ADSS president Jo Williams, although much of what has already been done has been helpful and innovative, 'there is still some way to go before safeguarding all children everywhere is seen as a clear national priority'.

Pointing to areas beyond local authority care, she said that child protection must be a priority for all public, private and voluntary organisations supported by a well-informed public who, following the original Waterhouse Report, fully understands the risks vulnerable children face.

Despite the benefits of the quality protects programme, the safeguards in the Care Standards Bill, the Protection of Children Act and revised guidance, she highlighted three areas still needing government attention:

RESOURCES. Mrs Williams said that the recommendation from Sir Ronald that a properly costed strategy for children's services could be put in place should not have been rejected. 'Children's services have been underfunded since the passage of the Children Act, ten years ago. Unless and until adequate resources are made available, the problems facing the child care system will not be fully resolved.'

An important step would be for the government to ensure that the funding for the current quality protects initiative is extended beyond the three year timescale.

COMMISSIONER. Although welcoming the appointment of a children's commissioner for Wales, Mrs Williams said that failing to appoint ones for the rest of the United Kingdom 'misses the opportunity of ensuring that children's interests are properly understood and represented - particularly those children who are outside the remit of the newly created children's rights director.

'As we see, in daily press reports, children are constantly at peril and as we strengthen our protection in some areas, so paedophiles target weaker ones wherever they are to be found. A commissioner would considerably beef up our ability to protect children right across the board.

'We shall monitor the new arrangements carefully, and if necessary press for commissioners for the rest of the UK as well,' she said.

RESIDENTIAL WORKERS: The role, status, training and pay for residential workers has not been fully acknowledged. While increased training was an important recommendation of Waterhouse 'the ability torecruit, retain and support high quality staff simply won't be dealt with unless the problems of their low pay and low status are fully addressed', Mrs Williams said, adding that ADSS will continue to work

with government and the Local Government Association to address these issues.

She ended: 'The challenges which Waterhouse poses for us all should cause us to look much wider afield than the public care system, and to consider the risks and harm that children face in settings, including private and independent schools, young offenders institutions and the wider community.'

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