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LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO LAUNCH FAR-REACHING ACTION PLAN FOR IMPROVING CHILDRENS SOCIAL SERVICES IN WALES

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The Welsh Local Government Association and Syniad today launch a far-reaching children's action plan for local auth...
The Welsh Local Government Association and Syniad today launch a far-reaching children's action plan for local authorities.
Harry Jones, leader of the WLGA, Jane Hutt, national assembly health minister, and Peter Clarke, the new children's commissioner will attend the launch this evening.
The children's action plan was written in response to the Waterhouse Report into abuse of children in the care of Gwynedd and Clwyd. It demonstrates how much local authorities are already doing, as well as setting out new commitments to ensure that the events which were the subject of the Waterhouse Inquiry can never happen again in Wales.
The Action Plan goes beyond the Waterhouse report in two important respects:
- It focuses on local authorities' corporate commitments to children and is therefore intended primarily as a tool for cabinets and chief officer's management teams and makes proposals for strengthening and supporting the role of elected members; and
- It recognises the importance of children's voices being heard and developing services within the context of a children's rights framework, as the best way to protect them from abuse and equip them to be active citizens of the future.
Notes
Syniad is the improvement, development and employers agency for local government in Wales.
The Waterhouse Report into abuse of children in the care of Gwynedd and Clwyd was published on 15 February last year. The WLGA co-ordinating committee later that month agreed that the association should draw up its own action plan in response to the tribunal's findings to demonstrate the commitment of local government across Wales to improve outcomes, services and safeguards for children.
All local authorities were consulted on the childrens action plan, and sets out a wide range of actions and commitments. Views were also sought on the final draft from around 100 organisations in Wales.
SECRETARY'S REPORT
THE ASSOCIATION'S AND SYNIAD'S CHILDRENS ACTION PLAN
Purpose
1 To present the final version of the action plan to the committee; to seek endorsement of the action plan as the association's policy and for the committee to agree to a high profile launch for the document as well as asking all local authorities to endorse the principles outlined in the plan and adopt the examples of good practice and innovative working.
Background
2 In February this year, the committee agreed that an action plan be produced in response to the Waterhouse report. Our aim was to demonstrate Welsh local government's commitment to improve children's services and safeguards and to take action over and above the Waterhouse recommendations.
Following consultation with local authorities, a draft action plan was presented to the June co-ordinating committee. The committee accepted the social services advisory group recommendation that there should be consultation on the draft plan with organisations with a direct interest in children's services before the Committee endorsed the final version.
3 The draft action plan was sent to all Welsh health authorities, NHS Trusts, Community Health Councils, Police Authorities, Probation Services, Teacher Training institutions, TECs and over a 100 other professional and voluntary organisations with a direct interest in children's services.
Responses have been received from the Royal College of Nursing; CCETSW/TOPSS, the national training organisation for social care; the National Deaf Children's Society; Bro Taf Health Authority; North West Wales NHS Trust; the Chair of the Powys Division of the BMA; Dr P Stutchfield, Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Health; and the Crime & Operations Policy Unit of the South Wales Police.
4 The respondents endorsed our approach and welcomed the action plan as a serious contribution to improving safeguards and services for looked after children and making corporate parenting a reality for children, officers and members.
There was strong support for: the commitment to collaborative working; the call for additional funding for children's services, our vision of a children's commissioner with a broad, strategic remit; the support to assist councillors to fulfill their responsibilities and the examples of good practice. Launching the children's action plan
5 The action plan is focused on local authorities' corporate responsibilities and is therefore primarily intended as a guide for chief executives, leaders and cabinets as well as social services committees and scrutiny committees.
The document not only demonstrates local government's commitment to take action to improve services but it shows how much is already going on. It includes examples of good practice and partnership working from 18 Welsh authorities.
6 Since we started drafting this plan, social services has been in the spotlight as a result of the publication of the six joint review reports. Children's services are identified as of particular concern in the joint review team's findings. Spending on children's services is low compared with England, the joint review team identified unacceptable variations in quality and standards and had 'serious concerns' about children's services in 2 authorities.
7 Section 1 of the action plan has been redrafted to take account of the joint review findings. Although the action plan was originally intended as a response to the Waterhouse report, the committee is asked to agree that it should now be used to demonstrate how local government intends to address the issues arising from the joint review findings as well as in response to the Waterhouse recommendations.
8 It is proposed that report be published and distributed widely. Jane Hutt should be invited to attend a high proflie launch, involving leaders and chief executives, as well as children and young people who use social services.
One of the criticisms made of Welsh local authorities in joint review reports was that social services have not assumed a high priority in councils since reorganisation and that stronger, visible leadership is needed, starting from the top.
A high profile launch is an opportunity to demonstrate how seriously authorities are taking their corporate responsibilities towards children and to publicise how much is already being done to listen to children, improve services and to develop partnership working.
9 In addition, it is proposed that the committee should encourage all local authorities to ensure that their members and chief officers have copies of the action plan, that they adopt the principles outlined in the document and identify how they could make use of the examples of good practice and innovative working
Recommendations
10 The Committee is asked to:
10.1. endorse the action plan as association policy
10.2. agree there should be a high profile launch as proposed in para 8, involving Jane Hutt, leaders and chief executives as well as children and young people who use social services
10.3. encourage all local authorities to adopt the principles in the document and to make use of the examples of good practice and innovative working.
The full WLGA report can be viewed here
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