On 5 October 2021 we published our 2020/21 annual report.
It covers the period between April 2020 and March 2021.
Our Year in Numbers
- Engaged in person with at least 694 children and young people across Wales at online events, workshops and meetings
- Gathered the views of 44,000 children and young people across Wales through ‘Coronavirus and Us’ surveys
- Gathered the views of 167 head teachers and college principals in one week in January on digital inclusion
- Hosted online children’s rights lessons for 864 children and young people
- Secured nearly 10,000 votes in the country’s first parallel Senedd election for 11-15 year olds.
- Hosted training sessions on children’s rights for over 800 participants
- Responded to at least 30 Senedd, Welsh Government and other organisations’ consultations, creating tangible change in a number of new policies and legislation.
- Managed 663 cases through our Investigations and Advice service
Some of our major achievements
- Played a major role in data gathering with children and young people during the pandemic: Two Coronavirus & Me surveys, a listening day report and a digital inclusion survey and report.
- Influenced a wide range of measures including children’s return to school, changes to qualifications arrangements and enabling children in care to have contact with their families.
- Created and hosted an information hub with accurate, current and accessible information about the pandemic.
- Undertook the first formal review by the office of the Welsh Government’s exercise of its functions.
- ‘Building Blocks’: This report highlights the findings of our investigation of exclusion in Foundation Phase education (ages 3-7) across Wales, which revealed that, on average, nine Foundation Phase children per authority had been excluded more than once, with one child having been excluded 18 times in a one-year period.
Our Annual Report’s Recommendations
These are the recommendations we’ve made to the Welsh Government in our annual report.
Family environment and alternative care
1) The Welsh Government must bring forward a roadmap by 1st April 2022 setting out the timescale and actions they will take to safely phase profit out of children’s social care provision.
2) The Welsh Government must swiftly bring forward statutory entitlements and policies for care leavers as a coherent package.
Some of these have been long standing calls, following the publication of our Hidden Ambitions report in 2017, which were accepted by Welsh Government at the time.
- Welsh Government should do the following;
- Amend the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and guidance, to secure all care leavers’ entitlement to a Personal Advisor up to the age of 25;
- Extend the statutory entitlements of the ‘When I’m Ready’ post 18 living arrangements scheme to young people leaving residential care.
- Develop national standards to address concerns of quality, sufficiency and suitability for semi-independent accommodation for care-experienced young people up to the age of 25. This was proposed by the previous Welsh Government’s Joint Housing and Social Services Group, but progress has stalled.
- Work with care leavers and local authorities to produce clear financial information that is available nationally. These would help young people and their personal advisers access the range of grants, benefits and entitlements that are available when leaving care. This should include eligibility criteria/guidance for the St David’s Day Fund to give certainty to care leavers on how they can make best use of the scheme.
- Using data regarding current use of unregulated care for under 18s, consider what amendments may be required to the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act, to strengthen the inspection and regulation of care and accommodation provision for under 18s that does not currently fall under the remit of the Act;
3) Welsh Government must:
- Strengthen Wales’ corporate parenting role through legislation and guidance, to ensure Wales’ care system is rights based and enables children to thrive in care. It is particularly important to progress this work, as large numbers of care experienced young people have so far been involved in the process and will have expectations that important changes are to be made.
- Oversee and monitor the widespread roll out of the Protocol to Reduce the Unnecessary Criminalisation Of Looked After Children, supported by resources and training to strengthen existing practice.
4) The Welsh Government needs to demonstrate progress to further enact the Youth Justice Blueprint, particularly the secure accommodation elements.
5) Welsh Government should directly engage with children and young people with caring experience to ensure the Unpaid Carers strategy adequately reflects their needs and promotes their rights.
Education, Citizenship and Cultural Activities
6) Welsh Government should ensure that all teaching and support staff involved in the delivery of the new Curriculum for Wales receive high quality professional learning and national guidance to develop their knowledge and understanding of the UNCRC and UNCRPD.
7) Welsh Government must develop and fund a national offer for high quality professional learning so that by September 2022 each setting in Wales has benefitted from this professional learning, and has identified a specialist RSE lead practitioner who can oversee a whole-setting approach to RSE that is integrated with the curriculum.
8) All young people, including those taking vocational qualifications, need clear and accessible information directed to them about how their qualifications will be awarded in 2022. This information needs to be available as soon as possible and young people should be involved in developing these messages.
9) We have not seen a copy of the concluded Learner Travel Review. Whilst the pre-election restrictions from March 2021 may have prevented publication, this work and subsequent actions cannot be left behind in the fifth Senedd.
We expect the Welsh Government to publish its findings and set out the actions that will be undertaken as a result of their Learner Travel review. Findings can be published on an interim basis if further work necessary, but there must be information published to ensure transparency and progress on this issue.
10) Welsh Government should work with stakeholders, schools and children and young people themselves to ensure the ambition of the whole-school approach to emotional and mental well-being is matched by resource, capacity and a whole-system support network across relevant services which meets the particular needs of each school.
11) Elective Home Education: The Welsh Government must bring forward primary legislation to meet in full their commitments to the three tests for this policy area:
- that children are accounted for;
- receive a suitable education and their other human rights; and
- that to ensure this, every child should have the opportunity to be seen and their views and experiences listened to.
12) The Welsh Government must act in two areas:
- To address the EWC registration issues through new legislation; this sits outside of the relevant Regulations and is a separate piece of work, which must be prioritised and urgently actioned; and
- Undertake a full review of the current regulations for independent schools and bring forward revised and strengthened regulations to address any gaps or deficiencies.
13) Welsh Government must set a clear policy aim to prevent exclusions being issued to children under 8 years old. Statutory guidance on exclusion should be amended so that it includes specific considerations relating to the age of the child and to set out clear alternatives to exclusion. This should be supported with an action plan for early support.
Adequate Standard of Living
14) Welsh Government must continue the Together for Children and Young People programme to support the implementation of a No Wrong Door approach, and the NEST whole-system model, including the specific work within these models for improving support for neurodiverse children.
15) (Transitions guidance) The Welsh Government must ensure through the published guidance that there is adequate resource for the new executive lead and key worker roles in every Health Board in Wales.
16) Welsh Government should publish new guidance for all health boards which ensure every child in Wales has access to independent health-related advocacy should they need it. This guidance should be based on the work done to date, and published during the financial year 2021/22.
17) The Programme for Government to 2026 contains ambitious intentions to reform social care and integrate it with health care. Early work on this priority must address the longstanding issue of Continuing Care, and children and young people and their families must be a part of finding those solutions.
18) Welsh Government must carry out their review of food entitlements in schools without delay, to include eligibility for free school meals, and ensuring that school breakfasts are reaching as many children as possible including those in most need of this provision.