AM calls for reform of children’s services

(Title Image: Senedd TV)

This week’s short debate came from Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central) on the issue of children’s services.

Time for change

Neil said the status quo wasn’t working. Social workers were overworked and there were too many gaps in the system; it was now not uncommon for social workers to have 40 children on their books when they’re only supposed to have 20.

The number of children in care in Wales has also increased by 36% over the last nine years; each local authority placement costs £23,000.

He went on to cite a number of examples where the system wasn’t working, including one family where medical reasons behind a child’s behaviour (caused by lack of oxygen at birth) weren’t fully considered – despite social services saying there was no threat to the children – resulting in all four children being taking away from the mother. This was after they asked for social service help.

“As a general rule, there’s huge class discrimination in taking children into care: do not be working class; do not be on a low income; do not be without formal education; do not be a former child in care; do not be a former victim of child abuse or rape, because, I tell you, in some circumstances, all this will be held against you and I’ve seen the cases to prove it. I’ll tell you also, don’t be a feisty mother trying to protect her offspring, because this will also be held against you; you will be called ‘aggressive’ and you will be called ‘uncooperative’.”
– Neil McEvoy AM

Neil McEvoy claims he’s been banned from attending child protection conferences in Cardiff after a father who was domestically abused by his partner wasn’t offered any support and while there was a known paedophile threat whilst the children remained in the mother’s care. He raised the latter issue at a conference and was told, “It won’t happen again”.

Safety of children is paramount

Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan (Lab, Cardiff North) appreciated the work of the people on the front line and said she was impressed by their dedication and passion. The priority has to be the safety of children and this meant making difficult decisions:

“I think, as Neil McEvoy did acknowledge in his contribution, that the safety of our children is paramount, and whilst we do all we can to work with families to keep the family unit together, sometimes, it is in the best interest of the child to live in a different arrangement, and that is and should always be a last resort. This, of course, could be with their extended family or friends, or often with grandparents or in more formal arrangements such as special guardianship or kinship foster placements.”
– Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan

The Deputy Minister promised to work with councils to reduce the number of out-of-county placements and to reduce the number of children in care in general. While she welcomed scrutiny of care arrangements, it had to equally be acknowledged that social services were committed to working in the interests of children.