MPs exert pressure on Children’s Society over move to quit Wales

Pressure is mounting to gain a last-minute
reprieve for the Children’s Society in Wales.

A group of Welsh MPs met with Ian Sparks,
chief executive of the charity, to voice their dismay at the
Children’s Society decision to pull out of its work in Wales, with
the loss of 13 advocacy projects across the principality and more
than 125 jobs.

The MPs made it clear that unless there is a
reconsideration, trustees from the society are likely to be called
before the House of Commons Welsh affairs select committee to
explain their actions.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has added his voice
to the growing political pressure and expressed his disappointment
at the charity’s plans. He said: “This is a disappointing decision.
I know there are discussions going on and I hope they can reach a
successful conclusion.”

Julie Morgan, the MP for Cardiff North who
organised the meeting at Westminster, said that the eight Welsh MPs
who met with Sparks told him how deeply unhappy they were.

“We told him how we felt about the way
children in Wales were being discriminated against by the decision
to withdraw,” she said. “We felt very dissatisfied with the
explanations and we have asked him to go back to the board of
trustees to ask for a reversal of the decision. We have also
requested that a group of staff and young people attend the board’s
meeting to express their views, as we felt that Wales was very
under-represented when the decision was made.

“If there is no reversal of the decision then
the Welsh affairs select committee will ask for the chief executive
and the chair of the trustees to appear before the committee.”

Meanwhile staff in Wales are currently putting
together a business plan that they want to put before the board of
trustees. A spokesperson said they had received an enormous amount
of support from within Wales and that the work that they do with
children is considered vital.

A spokesperson for the Children’s Society said
trustees were prepared to meet with staff from Wales at the board’s
meeting on 14 December. He added that trustees were also prepared
to go before a parliamentary committee if necessary, as the charity
had made every effort to be open and transparent about the reasons
for its withdrawal from Wales.

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