health secretary Alan Milburn following the publication of the inquiry
in to allegations of abuse at children's homes in North Wales.
Welcoming publication of Ronald Waterhouse's report, 'Lost in
children in care in the former county council areas of Gwynedd and
Clwyd since 1974', Mr Milburn confirmed the establishment of a
national children's rights director.
Mr Milburn said:
'This is a harrowing report. It reveals a systematic failure to care
for some of the most vulnerable children in society. It is
unacceptable and must not happen again. The government already has in
place a major programme of work to improve and strengthen children's
services, including the£375m programme for children, 'Quality
Protects', to ensure that children in care are properly looked after
and get a decent start in life. But we cannot sit back at this point;
there needs to be constant vigilance.'
'That is why I am pleased to be able to confirm an important
development for children's welfare. The appointment of a national
children's rights director, as part of the National Care Commission,
will ensure that the issue of children's rights and safeguards are
given the highest priority.'
The specific role of this post still requires further consultation,
but key roles will be to:
- police the independent regulation and inspection of children's
- make sure that the views of children in various settings,
including children's homes, fostering agencies, voluntary adoption
agencies, residential family centres and welfare arrangements in
boarding schools, are given proper consideration
- gather, and act on, any significant evidence which might help
local authorities or other providers to improve the services and
support they give to children
60 out of the 72 recommendations in the Waterhouse Report apply to
the department of health. The department is currently acting on 43 of
the recommendations and is urgently reviewing the remaining 17.
Key measures being undertaken include:
Following introduction of the Care Standards Bill, all social care
staff will be bound by enforceable codes of conduct and practice,
ensuring that staff get the training and qualifications they need.
- Vetting of Staff
The Protection of Children Act 1999 will put the Consultancy Index -
the list of adults who are unsuitable to work with children - on a
statutory basis. This means that employers will be obliged to check
the names of anyone seeking employment, who may be in regular
contact with children against this list, and the list - held by
department for education and employment.
- Independent representation
The development of an independent advocacy service for any child in
care who wishes to have it, is being put together under the Quality
Every social services authority should have a children's complaints
officer, who is not a line manager of residential staff.
Mr Milburn continued:
'Protecting children from dangerous individuals is the top priority
for social care services. We expect excellence, not excuses, for
children in care. We must satisfy ourselves that those people who
have abused children, are not in a position to do so now.
'That is why I have today instructed each local authority and NHS
trust in England to check their employment records. I am determined
to ensure that any of the individuals named in the Waterhouse report,
who have been convicted of offences against children, or against whom
a finding of having harmed children or of being unsuitable to work
with children has been made, and whose whereabouts are currently
unknown, are stopped from working with children and other vulnerable
groups. The authorities will be required to let the department of
health know the result of inquiries and what action they intend to
take to protect children if a positive match is found, by 5pm on
Thursday 17 February 2000. I expect nothing less than a full report
from every local and health authority.
'I am also extending the the list maintained by the department of
health of individuals unsuitable to work with children - the
Consultancy Index - to include people who have not been referred by
an employer. I have also taken steps immediately to include in the
Consultancy Index, on a temporary basis, those named in the report
who have been convicted for offences against children, or against
whom the tribunal has made a finding of harm against children.'
'We are determined to take all action necessary to protect and