Children’s Society to delay pull-out

The Children’s Society has decided to delay
its controversial decision to pull out of Wales until July
following a meeting in Cardiff last month with a special task group
set up by the Welsh assembly.

Many of the society’s projects were originally
due to close in April. However, at the meeting there was concern
that no firm pledges of financial support had been made and that
the society’s chief executive Ian Sparks had not attended, despite
telling Welsh affairs select committee MPs that he would be

Last November, when the society announced its
decision to pull out of Wales, there was widespread condemnation of
the loss of 13 advocacy projects for children and young people and
some 120 jobs.

Since the announcement, plans have emerged for
a shadow organisation that will run until March 2003 when a new
charity could come into existence. The task group has decided to
ask the Children’s Society if it would be willing to manage the
interim period.

Children’s commissioner for Wales, Peter
Clarke, said it was necessary to find an agency that could manage
the interim period successfully.

He said: “The best placed agency would be the
Children’s Society itself, because it holds all the contracts with
local authorities, and it also holds all the contracts with the
staff, and it has been demonstrably handling all these services
already, which will help offset any fears that the local
authorities might have about a new agency moving in.

“This idea has been adopted by the task group,
which is now going to approach the society requesting that it
agrees in principle to manage the projects from now until March
2003,” he said.

Sarah Manners, a spokesperson for the
Children’s Society staff group in Wales, said that she felt that
the group was inching toward its goal of fighting to maintain work
in Wales.

She said that the most important development
was that the local authorities and the representatives of the
Children’s Society who attended the meeting had agreed to continue
the work until next summer.

“An independent management consultant brought
in by the Children’s Society will put together a business plan that
would cover the period from July to March 2003. This would continue
the work in Wales for the present, but would look forward to the
creation of an independent charity in the future.

“The task force is due to meet again in the
New Year and the interim plan should be available then. But there
has been no commitment by the society to put any money into this
process and there are difficult negotiations ahead to try to secure
the money that will be needed,” said Manners.

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