Deadline for abuse action

7th October 2005 at 01:00
Pupils must be given helpline information by next March.

Karen Thornton reports

Schools have until the end of March to inform all pupils of services such as ChildLine that can offer them support and protection if they are abused.

The move was a key recommendation of last year's Clywch report into child abuse at a south Wales secondary school. Now it forms one of 203 key actions for improving public services for children - 84 of which must be implemented by next March.

The national service framework (NSF) for children's services in Wales aims to improve the quality of health, education, social care and other services for children aged 0-18.

Launching the 90-page document, first minister Rhodri Morgan said the Aberfan disaster, which cost 144 lives, and the current south Wales E.coli outbreak which has affected more than 150 people, had happened because "someone didn't put the safety of children high enough up their agenda".

"Everyone in public life is going to put children at the top of the agenda.

It's all part of ensuring children grow up healthier than previous generations."

Not all of the standards affect schools, but some - to be delivered by local authorities - will need to be implemented via schools. Those due for implementation by March 2006 include:

* informing schoolchildren about services that can protect them from harm, including ChildLine, the NSPCC child protection helpline, and social services;

* working with other agencies to ensure the successful reintegration into school of children who have been absent for long periods;

* providing effective sex and relationships education, based on guidance from the Assembly;

* training school governors on child-protection issues.

The framework also envisages all local education authority-maintained schools eventually taking part in the Welsh healthy schools network, which promotes healthy diets and exercise. Schools should make water readily available for free and promote healthy food options, it says.

And parents should be given evidence-based information about parenting issues, and offered suggestions on how to manage children's behaviour without resorting to physical punishment.

Children and young people were consulted on the framework, and helped launch the final version in Cardiff last week.

Aneurin Venables, 16, was one of the members of Wrexham's youth forum who compared the NSF proposals to Wrexham council's own plans for improving local services. "We particularly liked the focus on making services child-friendly," he said.

Charli Dickenson, 17, a sixth-former at The Maelor secondary school, Wrexham, said: "There were a few things missing, like having fewer cars on the road so there is less pollution."

Beth Wellsburg, 14, pointed out that chocolate cereals are far more attractively packaged than healthier options.

Children from Ysgol Hen Felin, a special school in Rhondda Cynon Taf, also attended the launch to talk about My Orange Book, an initiative designed to make hospital stays and meetings with specialists easier for families of children with on-going needs.

The orange books contain personal details about children, so they do not have to keep giving the same information to new carers.

National service framework for children, young people and maternity services in Wales, see www.wales.nhs.uk

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