Wales

Ministers step in over Pembrokeshire child failings

  • 20 September 2011
  • From the section Wales
Pembrokeshire council offices in Haverfordwest
Image caption Pembrokeshire council have two months to draw up a plan to resolve "education issues"

A ministerial board is being set up to help Pembrokeshire council overcome failings in its child protection procedures.

It follows two highly-critical reports, one of which identified problems in protecting children from abuse.

Deputy social services minister Gwenda Thomas said some progress has been made but that the kind of change needed could not be achieved quickly.

Leader John Davies said the council would cooperate fully with the board.

Last month a sreport exposing the council's failings over child abuse allegations was described as "deeply disturbing" by Wales' children's commissioner.

Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) and Estyn started a joint inquiry following 25 cases of alleged professional abuse between 2007 and 2011.

Some of these cases concerned primary school head teacher David Thorley who was jailed in May 2009 of nine sex assaults against children.

In a second report education services for children and young people were judged "unsatisfactory" by inspectorate Estyn which said the "policies and systems for safeguarding children and young people were not fit for purpose.

Estyn said the authority met or exceeded only seven of the 12 Welsh Government benchmark expectations for the last four years.

It said learners did not perform at expected levels at the end of Key Stage One and Key Stage Four.

And it found attendance rates in primary and secondary schools was only adequate and had declined over the last four years.

Special inspection

On Tuesday Mrs Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services, told assembly members: "It is clear that there is still a considerable way to go before we can be confident that Pembrokeshire County Council has created the culture that is needed to properly safeguard and protect children.

"We believe that external challenge and support can best be provided through a ministerial board with an independent chair with a legal background and other members with the necessary expertise to challenge the council in the core areas for improvement."

Ministers received the council's action plan on 9 September, giving assurances that staff cannot come into contact with children on behalf of the authority without adequate checks being carried out.

The council's plan in response to the wider education issues identified by Estyn must be put in place within two months.

"We know that these failures won't be fixed quickly," said. Mrs Thomas

The Auditor General for Wales will undertake a special inspection at the authority in November.

"It is clear that there is still a considerable way to go before we can be confident that Pembrokeshire County Council has created the culture that is needed to properly safeguard and protect children," the minister said.

Council leader Mr Davies said: "I welcome the fact that the minister recognises the volume of work that has been carried out by the council and its officers over the last two months but acknowledge the minister's wish for further reassurance.

"I, along with members of the county council, will be working with council officers and Welsh Government representatives to ensure Pembrokeshire remains a safe place to live and learn."

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