17 November 2014
Article written by Sian Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales is concerned that ‘the Welsh Government seems too comfortable with its status as an international children’s rights trailblazer’. This is one of the key messages from Keith Towler in the final Annual Report of his tenure as Commissioner. In the recently published Annual Report 2013-14 he also says that ‘vital services aimed at protecting vulnerable children and young people are in danger of being lost, due to the lack of vision and leadership from the Welsh Government’.
The Welsh Government has previously received international recognition for introducing the Rights of the Child and Young Person (Wales) Measure 2011, which embeds the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law in Wales. The UNCRC is made up of 54 articles, a summary of which can be found here. These articles set out a wide range of rights for children and young people up to 18 years of age including rights to protection, health, family, education, culture and leisure.
Next year, the United Nations will take evidence and examine what more the Westminster and Welsh Government need to do to fully implement the UNCRC. The UN will take evidence from the UK and Welsh Government, the four UK Children’s Commissioners, Non-Governmental Organisations. When the UN Committee last scrutinised progress in 2008, it took evidence from children and young people themselves, facilitated by Funky Dragon.
The office of the Children’s Commissioner was established in 2000 in response to the findings of the Waterhouse tribunal inquiry report, Lost in Care, into alleged abuse of children in care in North Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.
An independent review into the role and functions of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, previously called for by the current Commissioner, is due to submit final report and recommendations to the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty in December 2014. In his latest Annual Report, the Commissioner says:
‘Experiences and developments since 2001 mean that there is now a need to strengthen the role of the Children`s Commissioner and to ensure governance arrangements reflect developments in our constitutional settlement. The complex patchwork of powers and regulations that currently define the role and remit of the commissioner need simplifying and clarifying, the remit of the Commissioner needs extending to avoid public confusion about non devolved areas, and the appointment, funding and reporting arrangements for the Commissioner need updating.’
The report will be discussed at the National Assembly for Wales’ Plenary session on the 18 November 2014.
The Children, Young People and Education Committee has already heard from the Commissioner on the work of his office and the findings of his report in a scrutiny session on 13 November 2013, a recording of which can be found on Senedd TV.
The Public Accounts Committee undertook scrutiny of Commissioners’ ‘Strategic Report and Accounts’ 2013-14 on 13 October 2014. A copy of the meeting transcript can be found here.