Abuse safety still not enough

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
The lawyer representing families of alleged sex abuse victims at a south Wales school has raised fears that key Clywch report recommendations will never be implemented.

A week before the second anniversary of the hard-hitting report, key agencies are unclear about how many of the recommendations to tighten child-protection procedures have been put in place. Hywel James, who represented some of the families of Rhydfelen teacher John Owen's alleged victims, said he was concerned that, as time went by, the recommendations would "simply disappear into a black hole".

"I would ask at the very least for a progress report from the Commissioner on the recommendations," said Mr James. "These were made to protect children of the future and we would expect him to be able to get answers from the minister or make his own adjudication of progress. When are all these matters going to be implemented ?"

Even the Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke's office has admitted that it does not know exactly how many of its own 31 recommendations have been put into practice to date. And it doesn't have the "human resources" to check progress regularly. But it does not believe agencies have been "dragging their feet".

"We knew that work needed to be done thoroughly and that would take time,"

said assistant commissioner Rhian Davies. "There is a lot going on behind the scenes and we don't rush to the media with information of every discussion."

The concerns come in the same week as an Ofsted report revealed that schools in England are ignoring rules designed to protect children from paedophiles.

The Clywch inquiry, led by Mr Clarke, catalogued dismal failures by key professionals to protect pupils from Ysgol Rhydfelen's drama teacher John Owen during the 80s and 90s.

Mr Clarke had wanted to see a national strategy for an independent counselling service for children across Wales within 12 months. But despite pressure for urgent action, after it was revealed that current counselling provision was variable with "very little or none" in some parts of Wales, a working group has been given another three years "to take forward approaches".

The umbrella body for Welsh Councils, the WLGA, could not say what progress had been made on just four of the key recommendations to local education authorities, including the appointment of a child protection co-ordinator in each authority, which was meant to have happened within six months of the report.

Ms Davies said the commissioner's office was concerned that some authorities had not put the co-ordinators in place and urged them to "rethink" their policies.

Within three months of his report in July 2004, Mr Clarke wanted each LEA to create an authority-wide database with information about child-protection teachers in every school, but Ms Davies said this week she did not know for certain how many had actually done so.

A WLGA spokesman said: "Local authorities are committed to the Clywch recommendations."

Janet Ryder, Plaid Cymru's education spokesperson, said: "Progress has been incredibly slow and the Assembly government has systematically failed to answer my questions about who is supposed to be in charge. Everyone is passing the buck."

An Assembly government spokesperson said: "We continue to consider the Clywch report with the utmost seriousness, and we welcome The TES revisiting the report two years after publication.

"In February, the government updated the education and lifelong learning committee on the 16 recommendations specifically directed to us, together with some others where we have a involvement.

"The minister will give a further update on July 5."

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