Commissioner finds failure to implement Waterhouse recommendation

A major report into social services departments in Wales by the
principality’s children’s commissioner Peter Clarke
highlights ‘worrying inadequacies’ in safeguarding
vulnerable children, writes Alex

In what is described as the first survey of its kind, the report
‘Telling Concerns’, said that one of the key recommendations of the
Waterhouse Inquiry into child abuse in north Wales children’s
homes has not yet been implemented.

The all-Wales survey looked at arrangements for children’s
advocacy and procedures for dealing with complaints and
whistleblowing in each of the 22 local authorities. It examined
arrangements to safeguard and promote the rights and welfare of
children and young people, but found that only one third of
councils have specialist children’s complaints officers.

Three years after the Waterhouse inquiry that uncovered
widespread abuse of looked after children, only eight local
authorities in the principality have specialist complaints officers
despite this being a major recommendation of the inquiry.

“Children who are looked after are particularly vulnerable and
therefore it is vital that they have an accessible means of raising
complaints and concerns, and some of the more terrible things that
Waterhouse uncovered give testimony to that,” said Clarke

The children’s commissioner’s team found that local
authorities were failing to appreciate the importance of
whistleblowing policies to safeguard children, either when they
were delivered in-house or commissioned. The review also found that
no specific attempts were made to ensure that children from the
most marginalised groups had access to such services.

In addition, most local authorities admitted that they could not
meet the support needs of looked after children living a long way
from home, who are often the most vulnerable.

Key recommendations of the report included a call for the Welsh
assembly to establish a unit to co-ordinate the provision of
advocacy services across Wales. The commissioner also calls on the
assembly to shelve its own proposals to reform complaints
procedures because they are not child-centred enough.

The report said that whistleblowing policies for staff in social
services should be more directly linked to child protection, in
line with Waterhouse’s recommendations, and that the failure
to report malpractice should be made a disciplinary offence. The
report found that during one year there were only nine instances of
staff raising concerns about malpractice.

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