Peter Clarke, the children’s commissioner for Wales, died yesterday, following a battle with cancer.
Clarke took up his role as the first commissioner in March 2001. It was the first post of its kind in the UK.
Maria Battle, acting commissioner, said: “It is with great sadness that we have had to say goodbye to Peter, who established this organisation and worked so tirelessly to improve the lives of children and young people. We all took strength from the tremendous courage that Peter showed in the face of his illness and from his continued determination to speak up for Wales’ children and young people.”
Clarke was a social worker by training and his previous positions included director of ChildLine Cymru and first Wales director of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, later renamed Rethink.
Children’s charities and Welsh assembly ministers expressed deep sadness and sympathy for Peter Clarke’s family.
Barnardo’s Cymru director Raymond Ciborowski said:
“Peter was passionate about improving the lives of the most vulnerable children in our society.
He has worked tirelessly to draw attention to the need to improve the child and adolescent health services in Wales, he has highlighted the issue of bullying in schools and listened to what children said was important to them, and he championed the cause of looked-after children.
Peter was also very supportive to Barnardo’s Cymru in our efforts to develop a service for children who are sexually exploited in Wales, and of our campaign to increase services for children who sexually harm in Wales.
Peter will be greatly missed by all those who knew and worked with him.”
Jan Leightley, director of children’s services at NCH Cymru, the children’s charity, said:
“Peter’s reputation as children’s champion in Wales was well-earned.”
Welsh assembly children’s minister Jane Hutt said:
“ I would like to pay tribute to Peter for the excellent way in which he developed the office of children’s commissioner as a significant and authoritative voice for children and young people in Wales.
His distinguished contribution set a model for subsequent children’s commissioner appointments and he made an impact well beyond Wales on a European and international scale.”
Welsh assembly first minister Rhodri Morgan said:
“Peter was very much a pioneer. He had the difficult job of establishing the office of children’s commissioner from scratch and worked tirelessly to develop his demanding role as champion of the rights of children and young people.
He always placed the highest importance on listening to the views of children and young people and making sure that their voices were heard, and responded to, particularly by government at all levels.
He could sometimes be tough and demanding as a champion for children but that was his job. He always fulfilled his duties with passion, dedication and commitment. He blazed a trail for others to follow.
He made an enormous contribution to the lives of children and young people in Wales in the past six years and many thousands have benefited, and will benefit in the future, from his work.”