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'Don't backtrack on our children'.

Byline: Steffan Rhys

THE recession should not be used as an excuse to backtrack on delivering children's services, it was warned today. Children's Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, said local authorities are not consistently implementing Welsh Assembly Government policies and are failing to put the best interests of children at the heart of decisions.

Among the main concerns in his annual review for 2008-09 are the protection of vulnerable children and the ability of Wales' newly-reorganised health boards to do so. He also criticises action on child poverty as "inadequate" and the UK's youth justice system as being dominated by a punitive approach which does not comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"I have seen a number of instances of decisions that are made in relation to children that are constrained by resource issues rather than the best interests of the child being paramount," said Mr Towler.

"While I acknowledge times are tough on local authorities, we must make sure the current financial \ climate isn't used as an excuse to delay the full implementation of national policies."

Mr Towler said recent high-profile cases had "highlighted the important role of health providers in identifying child injuries".

Meanwhile, recent reports by Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales and Health Inspectorate Wales into the safeguarding and protection of children, have identified inconsistencies in practice among local authorities.

Mr Towler said: "I am concerned the recent consultation on the unification of public health services across Wales is not sufficiently robust in relation to the role of the National Public Health Service in Wales in safeguarding children.

"Developments in Wales in the past year have shown the need for WAG to have a clear strategy in place that will ensure all children are effectively safeguarded."

Mr Towler said child poverty was "possibly the single most important issue facing modern Wales". He welcomed WAG's launch in June 2008 of the Taking Action On Child Poverty strategy but said it was "one initiative in a plethora of policy moves where implementation and progress on child poverty has been inadequate".

"This must change," he said.

A WAG spokesman said: "Children and young people's wellbeing in Wales and the promotion of their rights as citizens remains one of our top priorities and a key part of our One Wales agreement. We will now consider the report's findings and respond... in line with the time scales agreed with the Children's Commissioner's office."

Welsh Local Government Association Leader, Coun John Davies said: "Whilst there is much for local authorities to be proud of in terms of their progress over the last few years, we recognise that some key challenges remain."

Greta Thomas, NSPCC Cymru/Wales director, said: "The NSPCC shares... concerns about implementation of WAG policies at a local level."
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 10, 2009
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