There are still “worrying inadequacies” in Welsh social services
departments’ systems for safeguarding vulnerable children,
children’s commissioner Peter Clarke has found.
Clarke’s report reveals that three years after the Waterhouse
inquiry into child abuse in children’s homes, only eight of the 22
councils have appointed specialist children’s complaints officers –
one of the inquiry’s key recommendations.
“Children who are looked after are particularly vulnerable and
therefore it is vital that they have an accessible means of raising
complaints and concerns. Some of the more terrible things that
Waterhouse uncovered give testimony to that,” Clarke said.
The children’s commissioner’s survey looks at arrangements for
children’s advocacy, procedures for dealing with complaints and
whistleblowing, and arrangements to safeguard and promote the
rights and welfare of children and young people.
The report finds that local authorities were failing to appreciate
the importance of whistleblowing policies to safeguard children,
and that no specific attempts had been made to ensure that children
from the most marginalised groups had access to these
It calls on the Welsh assembly to establish a unit to co-ordinate
the provision of advocacy services across Wales.
Clarke also wants the assembly to shelve its proposals to reform
complaints procedures because they are not child-centred
Whistleblowing policies for staff in social services should be more
directly linked to child protection and failure to report
malpractice should be made a disciplinary offence, the report
recommends. The team found only nine instances of staff raising
concerns about malpractice during one year.
Hugh Gardner, vice chairperson of the Association of Directors of
Social Services in Wales, said all councils had general complaints
officers, and it was up to each local authority to ask itself how
best to spend the money available to improve services for
However, Sir Ronald Waterhouse said that he was appalled at the
report’s findings and that financial pressures on social services
were no excuse for the failure to appoint specialist complaints
“We called our report Lost in Care because children feel isolated
if they do not have access to a complaints procedure that they
understand and are prepared to use, and without that the sense of
isolation will continue,” Waterhouse said.