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Written Statement - Appointment of Members to Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board

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Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and  Social Services

On 20 September I made an oral statement about actions to address the findings of the joint investigation by the Care and Social Standards Inspectorate, Wales (CSSIW) and Estyn.  The investigation report, the “Joint investigation into the handling and management arrangements of allegations of professional abuse and arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire” was published on 11 September 2011, on the same day as Estyn’s inspection report on Pembrokeshire’s education services. 

Both reports highlighted serious and systemic failures in Pembrokeshire County Council’s approach to safeguarding.  It is clear that these failures are longstanding and that weaknesses in leadership, accountability and democratic process in the authority have contributed to these failures.  This was confirmed by the Ministerial Advisory Board appointed by Welsh Ministers to provide robust support and challenge to the authority in drafting its improvement plan.

In my oral statement I said that the Council would continue to need external support and challenge to tackle the problems identified I stated that could best be provided through a Ministerial board with an independent chair.

I can announce today the membership of this Board.

It will be made up of members with senior level experience and expertise in the core areas of weakness identified by the two reports.  I am pleased to announce that the Board will be independently chaired by His Honour, Graham Jones. Graham Jones, now retired from the judiciary, brings with him experience of having chaired a similar board set up to support the City and County of Swansea in addressing weaknesses in their Social Services.

Phil Robson, a retired Director of Social Services and also of Education in Powys, and former member of Pembrokeshire’s Ministerial Advisory Board, has agreed to provide continuity by joining the new Board.  We also welcome the other appointees who are:

  • Helen Mary Jones, former Assembly Member for Llanelli. She has been a shadow Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning and a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee;
  • Viv Thomas, former Corporate Director for Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning at Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and chair of the Education Structures Task and Finish Group for the Frontline Services Review; and
  • Professor Karen Graham, Professor of Early Years Studies at Glyndwr University, with an extensive and varied career in teaching and early years education.

The Board will provide support and challenge to Pembrokeshire County Council as it further develops and implements its improvement plan, will assess the sustainability of change and the longer term prospects for improvement and advise Welsh Ministers on progress and on the need for any further actions.

The direction the work of the Board takes, and any further Ministerial decisions, will be governed by the outcome of other ongoing work, in particular the joint work being undertaken by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, Estyn, the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.  The inspectorates are looking at the quality of joint work to safeguard and protect children and young people.  We will also take account of the views of the Wales Audit Office which is conducting a special inspection of the authority and its report is expected in February next year.

The Leader has confirmed that the Council will welcome the support we have offered through appointment of the Board.