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Charities call for Children’s Minister in joint manifesto

The six leading Welsh children’s charities will today call on the next Welsh government to include a Children’s Minister in its Cabinet.

The recommendation forms part of a joint manifesto, launched at an event in the Senedd by NSPCC Cymru / Wales, Action for Children, Save the Children, Children in Wales, Barnardo’s Cymru and Tros Gynnal Plant.

Delivering Change for Children in Wales is the National Children’s Charities Manifesto for the 2016 Assembly election. It calls for:

Robust Structures in Government:

A Children’s Minister with oversight of – and accountability for – all Welsh government children’s policy areas and a National Assembly for Wales Scrutiny Committee for Children and Young People.

Driving Positive Local Action:

Clear direction from all areas of the Welsh government to ensure that children and young people’s distinct issues are at the centre of planning and delivery of services – at local authority and regional level.

A Strong Legal Framework:

A Children and Young Person’s Bill in order to:

  • Build on and strengthen the requirement of due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Establish and embed robust participation structures
  • Secure changes through legislation strengthening the Children’s Commissioner for Wales remit, including revised accountability to the National Assembly for Wales
  • Give children equal protection from assault under the law

There is currently fragmented governance of issues affecting children at both a national and local level. A Children’s Minister would ensure greater coherence between all services and programmes provided for children and families that sit in different ministerial portfolios. This greater coherence is also needed locally, so vulnerable children and young people don’t fall between gaps in provision.

Wales adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and introduced a Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure in 2011. With a proud history of children-centred policy making in Wales, today’s manifesto calls for this commitment to be built upon in the next Assembly.

All six charities want to see a stronger legal framework that increases powers and boosts independence for the Children’s Commissioner. Currently legally accountable to the Welsh Government, which appoints the position, this recommendation would see the role accountable to the Assembly instead, like any other ombudsman. A Children and Young Person’s Bill could also establish and embed robust participation structures and give children equal protection from assault under the law

Head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, Des Mannion, said:

“Delivering change for children must be at the heart of the next Welsh Government.

“Since devolution, there has been a strong tradition of child-centred policy making in Wales. However, in recent years the policy response to children has been fragmented and focus has wavered, prompting concerns from all six charities.

“That’s why we’ve joined forces to call for renewed efforts to focus on fulfilling children’s rights and meeting their needs – placing them back at the top of the agenda.

“From a Children’s Minister to increased powers for the Commissioner – from boosted scrutiny to new legislation; we must ensure that there is a focus on the distinct issues of children and young people right across the country.

Yvonne Rodgers, Director at Barnardo’s Cymru – who will introduce the event at the Senedd – said:

“Every day we work on behalf of children who are struggling because of their family circumstances and find it difficult to get the support they need at the right time.

“We need strong political action to bring about changes to improve life for young people.  Children need the voice of a dedicated minister to provide clear leadership and bring about those changes.

“At a time when resources are under immense pressure we need to ensure that every penny counts and that policies and practices are coordinated across Cabinet to provide the strongest offer possible to help our most vulnerable children and young people.”

Operational Director at Action for Children, Brigitte Gater, said:

“A new Children’s Minister would provide the leadership and co-ordination we need to ensure children are at the centre of planning and service delivery, and a new Bill could bring about a stronger legal framework and much-needed change.

“Children’s rights have been symbolic of devolved government in Wales for 17 years – but it’s absolutely crucial that progress doesn’t stall now. We need to improve the outcomes of Wales’ most vulnerable children and strengthening our legal framework to ensure fulfilment of their rights is a vital first step.”