Sir Ron Speaks Up For Children In Care

FORMER high court judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse called yesterday for a truly independent voice to speak up for vulnerable children in Wales.

Sir Ronald, who led the investigation into allegations of widespread abuse in North Wales children’s homes during the 1990s, backed AMs’ demands for an independent advocacy unit to represent children in the care system.

He challenged children’s minister Jane Hutt to accept recommendations of a cross-party Assembly committee that at-risk children had access to a wholly independent and centrally funded advocacy service to handle complaints about their care or concerns about abuse.

Sir Ronald, who is also patron of Voices from Care which represents children in care, said: “We only have to read about the events being uncovered at a former care home in Jersey to realise what can happen when children do not have a trusted voice to speak on their behalf.”

The Assembly’s children and young people’s committee heard evidence from young people in care in Wales who were placed on all-male psychiatric wards, given placements miles from home in England, and fearful of repercussions if they spoke out.

Their report wanted the Assembly Government to create a national advocacy unit to commission services locally, giving young people wholly independent representation.

The Assembly Government yesterday announced its own proposals for new measures to strengthen the voice of children and young people in the provision of public services in Wales.

That promised an independent advocacy board to advise on best practice and commissioning of advocacy at national, regional and local level.

It would provide a single point of contact via telephone or text seven days a week for all children and young people in Wales.

But Deborah Jones, chief executive of Voices from Care said it had grave concerns about the proposals which fell “well short of being and independent body”.

She said: “It will continue to allow local authorities to fund the people who are meant to speak out against them.

“Only a truly independent unit with its own commissioning powers will provide the necessary safeguards that can help prevent future exploitation.”