THE ISSUE of looked after children in Wales has come under scrutiny recently after it emerged numbers of children in the care system have been skyrocketing. Some local authorities in Wales have rates of children in care three times higher than the Northern Ireland average, despite Wales being economically wealthier than Northern Ireland. There has also been a focus across the UK on the use of private care homes for looked after children, which is a particular problem in Wales where many children are sent out of county or even out of country when they enter the care system.

Neil McEvoy AM and Leader of the Welsh National Party, has made important amendments to a motion put forward by the Conservative AM, Darren Miller. The motion is on the subject of looked after children and the wider care system.

The original motion notes that the number of looked after children in Wales has risen and that the life chances of children both in care and upon leaving are significantly poorer than others. Finally it acknowledges the Public Accounts Committee’s report into care experienced by children and young people. As well as the work of the Ministerial Advisory Group for Improving Outcomes for Children Programme’s in their Annual Report 2019.

Neil McEvoy’s amendments go further to ensure:
• Parental contact between the child and parents is not severed or restricted but maintained.
• That care leavers who go onto be parents are not automatically discriminated against, simply for the fact they are care leavers themselves.
• That private care home providers who make significant profit from looked after children are not the best route of providing for these vulnerable children as they often put profit before people.
• Children who allege abuse in care are taken seriously and that they are provided with an advocate, spoken to by a child protection specialist in a place of safety in order to go through the issues they have raised.
• That investigations into the Council’s looked after children procedures, when complained about, are investigated by an independent third party who is not paid for by the Council about the whom that complaint is being levelled at.

Whilst welcoming the opportunity to bring the debate to Plenary, Neil McEvoy AM said “We need to ensure that this Government actually considers the needs of children in care. We have an opportunity to tighten up procedures to ensure that children are in fact looked after under the corporate parenting system. We must not fail the children of Wales.”

The voting on these amendments are due to take place this afternoon in Plenary under the motion NDM7287.

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