Behind the headlines

Our regular panel comments on a topic in the

The Waterhouse Inquiry report appeared to
herald a new epoch in child care services in Wales. Lost in
, published early in 2000, contained a searing indictment
of the North Wales child care system. But hopes of a better future
were dealt a blow last week when the leading child care charity,
the Children’s Society, suddenly announced that it was pulling out
of Wales altogether. The reason given was a serious fall in the
charity’s income. The society runs 13 advocacy projects for
children in local authority care in Wales, something which was
specifically asked for in the Waterhouse Inquiry report. The
closures were announced with “great sadness and regret” by the
Children’s Society’s chief executive, Ian Sparks. Sparks said the
only alternative to axing services completely would have been to
maintain an ineffectual residual presence. Maintaining a “shadow
organisation” of this kind would be letting down Welsh children, he
said. We asked our regular panel of commentators what they thought
of the Children’s Society’s decision.

Bill Badham, programme manager,
Children’s Society
“I am gutted by the need to withdraw from Wales, along
with big cuts across England affecting many children. But I feel
there was no alternative. Voluntary organisations are best when
challenging injustice and raising awareness of need. That
independence requires voluntary income. The Children’s Society
Cymru has been at the forefront of campaigning for
government-funded children’s rights services for children looked
after and in need. Our withdrawal from Wales challenges the Welsh
assembly and local authorities to provide full statutory funding
for crucial services which voluntary organisations have been
shouting for and part-funding out of shrinking resources.”

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner,
“It appears that the Children’s Society has been placed
in a ‘hang ’em if they do, hang ’em if they don’t’ situation.
Operating as a shadow organisation is undesirable and not a good
foundation for income generation, but axing services in Wales will
leave a massive service gap. My concern, though, is how this can
happen when at least some of the services were separately asked for
in the Waterhouse Inquiry.”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel
and Care for the Elderly
“The Children’s Society clearly has a very serious
financial position, which if not dealt with decisively, could
threaten all the work of the organisation. I applaud Ian Sparks for
having the guts to take the difficult decision rather than
maintaining a ‘shadow organisation’ in Wales which would not be
able to offer the level of service that children have a right to

Felicity Collier, chief executive,
British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering
“This is a disappointing decision which will be of great
concern to all those professionals in Wales striving to improve
services for looked-after children as well as restoring public
confidence in social services provision. For me it demonstrates
graphically how vulnerable the voluntary sector is to funding
vagaries and highlights the risk of the government expecting
charities to deliver front-line essential services without assured

Julia Ross, social services director
and primary care trust chief executive, London Borough of Barking
and Dagenham
“I think two things are happening here. These events are
directly related to the shortfall in funding children’s services
nationally. Secondly, charities are being squeezed out of the
market as they get caught in the contract culture across health and
social care. The real casualties are children in need.”

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.