Focus will be on real results for children

29th February 2008 at 00:00
This is the week I take up the challenge of following in Peter Clarke's footsteps by becoming Wales's second children's commissioner. It will be my responsibility to speak up for children and young people, to promote their rights and to help strengthen and improve the systems in place to protect them.

I will be spending a lot of time listening and working with them. They have so much to contribute and we must really build on their experiences and take seriously their issues, views and ideas. This is something that a number of schools and others are already doing and something that I highly commend.

I'm hoping to meet as many children, young people and practitioners as I can to profile the work of the commissioner and to gain a broader understanding of the issues and, in particular, the obstacles that stand in the way of the full realisation of children's rights in Wales.

Another of my priorities will be to report on the Assembly government's progress in adopting a child's right approach. I feel this is essential if we are to fulfil our obligation as adults to helping every child in Wales achieve their full potential. I will be given the opportunity to report on this when the UN Committee examines the Westminster and Assembly governments' progress in implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) later this year.

I, along with children and young people from Funky Dragon (Children and Young People's Assembly for Wales) and non-governmental organisations from Wales and the other three children's commissioners in the UK, will be providing evidence on positive developments and on areas that remain wanting.

There are areas of real progress in Wales, where the government has made a clear commitment to establishing systems and structures based on children's rights. Our government in Wales was the first to adopt the UNCRC as the framework for its strategy for children, translating it into seven core aims for the children of Wales. This is something we should all feel proud of.

We must be careful, though, to ensure that pride does not lead to complacency. Policy intent is not yet making a direct impact on children's lives. The message is clear when you talk to practitioners in the statutory and voluntary sectors, who express frustration at outcomes for children.

There remain significant breaches of children's rights in this country. For example, the treatment and care of children seeking asylum. There is also an unacceptable inconsistency in the services and support for looked-after children and young people, and our child and adolescent mental health services in Wales remain in crisis.

We have some of the highest rates of child poverty in the UK, and negative portrayals of children and young people is leading to heavy-handed responses to those who get into trouble with the law.

I want to focus on practice and positive outcomes for children. I will be heavily reliant upon education leaders and I'm looking forward to working with teachers, headteachers, governors and, of course, children and young people.

If we are to improve the quality of life for our children and young people, we must focus on practice and not be tempted to draw up new policies and strategies - we have those in abundance.

I hope you will be interested in working with me to achieve a society that respects children and young people, and places a real value on offering them the opportunities to fulfil their individual potential.

Keith Towler, children's commissioner for Wales.

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