Public spending cutbacks concern children's commissioner

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Media captionKeith Towler says there is some good work but children's services are vulnerable to cutbacks.

Services to protect vulnerable children could be lost due to a lack of vision and leadership by the Welsh government, claimed the children's commissioner.

Publishing his final annual report in the role, Keith Towler urged ministers to protect children's rights and shield services from funding cutbacks.

He called on the Welsh government to "re-state its vision for children".

The Welsh government said supporting children and protecting their rights was at its "very heart".

Mr Towler criticised the recently published draft budget by Welsh government, saying the "lack of transparency" over public spending on children "makes it an almost impossible task for me and others to see how money is going to be spent on children's services".

He said he had heard about budget cuts threatening respite provision for young people with disabilities and frontline social workers. He was also concerned about children in care having to move placements for financial reasons.

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Media captionKeith Towler said there is still a need for a children's minister

"Unless money allocated to delivering vital children's services is protected against the backdrop of further cuts, then actual spend may be significantly reduced or indeed lost as local authorities attempt to balance their books," said Mr Towler.

"We need some strong leadership from the Welsh government to re-position children and young people as the true national priority for Wales, where outcomes for the most vulnerable children meet that vision."

The report draws attention to the absence of a dedicated minister for children in First Minister Carwyn Jones's cabinet.

Image copyright Children's Commissioner

Commissioner's concerns:

  • Wheelchair-using children are still having access problems to some secondary schools
  • "Significant concerns" about access to specifically focused children's mental health services
  • Particularly concerned that children living in poverty or with disabilities lack sufficient opportunities for play
  • Children and their rights should be considered when councils consider the impact of budget decisions
  • Increasingly concerned about the impact of domestic violence on children
  • Still concerned about children of asylum seekers - particularly those who have become separated from their parents
  • Wants "tangible evidence" that education, food poverty and access to play and leisure are priorities in tackling child poverty

Source: Children's Commissioner's Annual Report 2014

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Media captionCatriona Williams, chief executive of Children in Wales, said she was worried about the most vulnerable children

The Welsh government said it would formally respond to the report in November but it was "taking action throughout the government to do everything we can to give our next generation the best start in life".

"Our recent draft budget protected funding for children's social services and our Flying Start programme to support vulnerable children was maintained," said a spokesman, adding that Flying Start had helped 31,300 children in the poorest communities.

Mr Towler's seven year term in the post is due to end early next year and the role is under review.

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