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WAO criticises council safeguarding

A REPORT published by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) has revealed that the Executive Board member charged with oversight and scrutiny of the safeguarding of Carmarthenshire’s children has had little or no training as to what his safeguarding role means in practice.

The hard-hitting report, which rates the council’s safeguarding as no better than ‘adequate’ – equivalent to a bare pass – reveals that neither Keith Davies, the Executive Board member for Education and Children Services nor Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, Cllr J E Williams, ‘could report on having received safeguarding training, which raises concerns about their ability to effectively deliver their responsibilities’.

In addition, the report comments that Carmarthenshire lack a corporate safeguarding policy, with a lack of coherence in its approach to the issue.

The most devastating revelation is that when members of the council were questioned about their understanding of risk management, the Wales Audit Office concluded that those interviewed were unfamiliar with risk management as a concept’. In addition to the report by the WAO, a report by Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) into Rhydygors School has revealed that the unit is failing to reach minimum standards.

The CSSIW report said: “Overall, we found that young people and their representatives cannot be confident that due care and attention has been paid to the national minimum standards for residential special schools in the period since our last inspection, as the service has not fully met these standards.”

CSSIW head, Imelda Richardson – in the Wales-wide Annual Report, released earlier in March – said: “Minimum standards are not enough and our focus must be on supporting all sectors to achieve excellence.”

Ms Richardson went on to say: “We place the children and adults who need and use services at the heart of our work by listening to their views during inspections and responded to 2,170 concerns raised by residents, relatives, staff and professionals. This resulted in 284 additional inspections. We encourage and thank people for bringing concerns to our attention and are committed to involving people in every aspect of our work and to improve our connection with local services and communities.”

A previous report by Estyn also found significant shortcomings at the council-run residential unit. In September, Estyn reported that the school’s performance was ‘adequate’ but that prospects for improvement were unsatisfactory.

Chair of the Board of Governors, Matthew Harries, responded to the CSSIW report on Rhydygors: “Rhydygors was inspected by Estyn in September 2014 and, as the new chair of governors, I will be looking to build on the progress that has been made to address the recommendations of the report. Indeed, we are pleased that progress has been made in many of these areas as noted in the more recent CSSIW report.”