The Welsh assembly has passed regulations designed to move the care system from a “crisis-based” to a “proactive” approach.
The new measures will require children’s home staff to meet Care Council for Wales training and qualification standards, prioritise children’s health and education when placing them out of authority and ensure a named residential worker is responsible for every child’s well-being.
The four sets of regulations also beef up powers for independent reviewing officers to have greater levels of scrutiny of the placement process.
This includes ensuring that notifications of placements, arrangements for health assessments, registration with a GP and access to a dentist have taken place within the statutory timescales, and that any identified mental health needs are being met.
Huw Lewis, Welsh deputy social justice minister, said: “What all these changes add up to is a more pro-active approach to helping looked-after children. Too often, professionals, such as specialist nurses and social workers, find themselves lurching from one crisis to another, which is not good for the child, whom we have reached too late.”
But opposition parties questioned whether the £6.1m extra for councils to implement the measures would be sufficient. Jenny Randerson, Liberal Democrat health and social care spokesperson, said: “It is likely to be an underestimate of the costs of truly putting into force the new provisions, which look excellent on paper.”
Meanwhile, children’s charities have written to Welsh assembly government health minister Dr Brian Gibbons warning that proposed national fostering allowances are too low and could result in councils cutting their current payment rates.
The letter, signed by seven charities, including the Welsh arms of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, NCH and Barnardo’s, says the rates would not help address the shortfall in foster carers.
Jane Butler, director of Fostering Network Wales, said: “The rates are significantly lower than our recommended ones which the majority of councils are already paying. I don’t think councils will put their allowances down over night as a result but I fear it could have a downward pressure over time.”
The proposed weekly rates are based on a 1995 household costs survey, and range from £77.78 for a baby to £88.19 for a child in secondary school.
The consultation runs until 2 March.
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