- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
Local AM demands action and answers from Pembrokeshire Council
Pembrokeshire-based Assembly Member JOYCE WATSON AM is demanding immediate action and answers from Pembrokeshire Council as a damning report shows ‘longstanding and systemic’ shortcomings in the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire.
Joyce Watson AM (Mid and West Wales) said:
“It appears that Pembrokeshire Council has been more concerned with protecting itself than protecting children.
“My blood ran cold when I read this report. The children of Pembrokeshire have been let down badly by this authority, and their voices have been ignored.
“I am glad that the Deputy Minister has taken such firm action by bringing in her own team, but saddened that such a move should be necessary.
“I am asking the Leader of the Council to take personal responsibility for rapidly resolving this, and for him and his cabinet to co-operate fully with the Minister’s team so they can put systems in place to safeguard our children, so that they and their families can be confident that they are in safe hands.
“I welcome that a cross party working group has been set up to tackle this and I want it to be at the top of the Council’s agenda. I want elected members of the council to work together to fulfil their responsibility for the welfare of children and not leave this vital work to council officers. Councillors need to remember they are ‘corporate parents.’
“Pembrokeshire parents should be assured that their children are served well by conscientious and caring staff across our education system.
“However, it appears that reporting mechanisms have failed, so when questions were raised they were overlooked or ignored. A systemic failure left our children exposed to potential exploitation, through a system which neglected to act effectively on suspicions.
“I want any council employees, including teachers, to feel empowered and supported in their efforts to protect our children.
“I will be asking the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee to carry out an urgent review to find out how this happened. Have the councillors carried out comprehensive scrutiny into corporate parenting and care and protection of children? If so, what happened as a consequence? The Council’s Children and Young People committee have a role in ensuring this can never happen again, as has the cabinet member with responsibility.
“In my 15 years as a Pembrokeshire County councillor I frequently asked questions around this issue, and Pembrokeshire has been found wanting many times in the past.
“The new Safeguarding Accountability and Improvement Board needs to lead a clearly worked out programme of honest and open scrutiny, where staff can inform them of any system failure that has created this situation.
“We need to work together to restore public confidence in these services, with resources put in place to facilitate necessary changes.
“It’s time for action now, and I hope on behalf of the children and young people that all concerned rise to this call for action.
“I will be studying the report thoroughly and monitoring the Minister’s team’s progress, and I will keep in close contact with the Deputy Minister on this.
“Children are among the most vulnerable people in our society and we must ensure they are protected.”
Joyce Watson AM is a member of the Assembly’s Local Government committee and a former Leader of the Opposition on Pembrokeshire Council.
For more information contact Joyce Watson’s office on 02920 898972 or on www.joycewatson.co.uk.