Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children and Social Care
On behalf of the Welsh Government I welcome the Children‘s Commissioner for Wales annual report. I recognise the work her office has undertaken, on behalf of the children and young people of Wales, to speak up on their behalf and to safeguard and promote their rights and welfare.
We have and will continue to work collaboratively for the benefit of all of our children and young people. As a Government, we will continue to strive to ensure that all children in Wales to have the best possible start in life. The early years, in particular, are a key priority and this is set out within both our Programme for Government and our national strategy ‘Prosperity for All’.
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales published her 2016-17 Annual Report on 9 October, in which she has reviewed the work undertaken by her office during the period 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017.
The report includes 19 cross-cutting recommendations for the Welsh Government. The response, published today, correspondingly reflects the collective voice of the Welsh Government and includes the responses provided by a number of Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers.
The National Assembly debated the Commissioner’s Report in plenary on 14 November 2017. These discussions have been considered in preparing our response. The 19 recommendations have been addressed in turn; with further information provided on the actions which the Welsh Government has already or intends to take.
I am pleased that as a Government we were able to accept, or accept in principle or accept in part all but one of the Children’s Commissioners recommendations. I believe that this is because we continue to share a vision that puts children at the very heart of what we do, alongside a shared goal of ensuring that all children can receive the support they need, when they need it, to help them achieve their potential and to live a happy, healthy and prosperous lives.
We have not accepted the recommendation relating to the childcare offer. The offer is explicitly designed to help parents to return to work by removing the barrier of childcare costs and to counter in-work poverty by meeting this important cost. At least 10 hours a week of education will continue to be available to all 3 and 4 year olds until they start full-time education. The childcare offer, however, is just one of a wider suite of policies which support parents and children of both working and non-working families.
The role of the Commissioner as an impartial and independent voice for children in Wales is important. The publication of her annual report helps us to reflect on achievements to date, and where we can do better. In her report the Commissioner has highlighted some of the areas where we have made significant progress through working collaboratively, including in taking forward Hidden Ambitions, independent advocacy for children and young people and in proposals to remove the defence of reasonable punishment.
While, as a Government, we might not be able to agree on every single issue with the Children’s Commissioner, I believe that we share much common ground and a desire to do our very best for children and young people in Wales.