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'Lost' generation still needs help

LOOKED-AFTER children are still being let down, according to the writer of a major report into abuse at children's homes in North Wales.

Sir Ronald Waterhouse backed calls for a review of his own recommendations - particularly a lack of progress in educational attainment. He also threw his support behind Voices for Care Cymru (VFCC), a charitable pressure group representing children in care which wants an urgent review of the care system in Wales.

VFCC made its demand at the launch of the Assembly government's first all-party group on looked-after children on Tuesday.

It also revealed five manifesto demands, including a dedicated teacher and a personal education plan for every looked-after child.

Sir Ronald responded to the VFCC's last call for progress on his recommendations to be reviewed.

His groundbreaking report Lost in Care ushered in a raft of changes designed to protect children. But six years on, Sir Ronald said there had been "insufficient progress".

His report was written after 16 months of evidence, given by children who suffered sexual and physical abuse in homes between 1974-1990.

It led to the appointment of a children's commissioner for Wales as well as sexual abuse awareness training for every teacher.

"The inquiry was entirely dedicated to physical and sexual abuse, but we have become very concerned about the outcomes of care," said Sir Ronald. "I am particularly concerned with educational attainment and a lack of suitable skills among looked-after children once they leave the care system."

Sir Ronald said he was relieved that a committee would be scrutinising the care system and pushing for a review. VFCC chief executive Deborah Jones said that poor educational outcomes for looked-after children was one of the pressure group's major concerns.

"Young people in the care system are entitled to the same opportunities as their peers and this needs to be recognised if we are to improve their lives," she said.

According to VFCC figures, two-thirds of looked-after children left school at 16 with no qualifications last year. Just 1 per cent of care-leavers go on to university, with just 2 per cent able to access a student loan.

Calls for looked-after children to have the same guarantee of a place at their first-choice school, like their counterparts in England, were also made earlier this year.

A spokesman for the Assembly government said it welcomed the all-party group's support and that it was working to give all children "the best possible start in life".

He did not comment on calls for a review of Lost in Care.

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