A tough exam for Pembrokeshire

 

What keeps ministers who have responsibility for children awake at night?

It won't, I imagine be exam results or the spending gap between Wales and England. It will be the slightest possibility of being seen not to have done everything you can to keep vulnerable children safe.

The leader of Pembrokeshire Council, Jamie Adams, has just left the Assembly building. He came alone to face the two ministers who yesterday issued his council with a final warning, one more chance to prove that Mr Adams, his political colleagues and his officers are complying with their legal duty to safeguard the county's children and young people. He's pretty new in the job but will have recognised the verbal thumbscrew that came down the M4.

It was strongly worded stuff, strong enough to persuade some politicians in Cardiff Bay that a final warning wasn't enough. Pembrokeshire Council deserved not one more day to prove themselves and that ministers should get in there now.

I've just caught up with Mr Adams as he left the building. The meeting, he told me, had been "constructive." Had he allayed the government's fears? He had, he said, been able to provide evidence of improvements that Ministers might not have been aware of. He'd listened to them, they'd listened to him.

Just yesterday the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, suggested we ask Mr Adams whether he had faith in his officers. He said it in a way that rather suggested that if the new leader did, it wasn't shared by the Welsh Government. So I asked, does the council leader have faith in his senior officers?

It seems he does.

"I have a faith that we are undertaking a journey of improvement in Pembrokeshire. The officers in question have been part of that journey and I see them as part of the solution".

What was the government's take on the same meeting? That there remain serious questions, not just about the claims made about failures to safeguard children but "the subsequent response of the local authority and its officers".

There has, we understand, been a long standing police investigation into some of the issues around safeguarding children in Pembrokeshire but now the news, shared by the minister, that "new material has come to light within the last 24 hours which has today been passed to the police".

We know no more about that material and its significance but we do know that the journey to which Mr Adams referred must now have a long, long way to go.

 
Betsan Powys Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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