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Section highlightHouses into homes This report details findings to emerge from the evaluation during the first six months of delivery (April to September 2012).
Written Statement - Update on tobacco policy »Standardised packaging of tobacco products and Sub Committees on The Smoke-free Premises etc. (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.Learn more »
National Library base for US Radio Travel programme
On Saturday 25 May, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth will be host to US radio star, Peter Greenberg.
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- National Library base for US Radio Travel programme
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Section highlightAccess to information
The Welsh Government has followed the principles of openness in government for many years. Find out how you can make a freedom of information request or see requests that have already been made.
Sky lanterns: environmental and risk assessment »To establish an evidence base to help any future policy decisions on sky lanterns and helium balloons.Learn more »
- Future management of private water supply pipes
- Amendments to the Motor Vehicle (Competitions and Trials) Regulations 1969 and the Motor Vehicles (Off Road Events) Regulations 1995
- Higher Education (Wales) Bill: Technical consultation
- Consultation - Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (Wales) Regulations 2006 (Amendment) Regulations 2013
- Draft action plan for pollinators
Featured consultation »Implementing the Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011
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Section highlightFurther and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Bill 2013
Removes a number of technical restrictions and controls on colleges without changing the principal powers of colleges to provide further, higher and secondary education.
Legislative programme 2012 - 2013 »
Addressing the Assembly in the Senedd today, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, detailed the eight bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the second year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightCommunity Infrastructure Levy
Local authorities can charge a Community Infrastructure Levy on new developments to support the infrastructure needed.
2nd Supplementary Budget 2012-13 »
Proposes a number of changes to the 1st Supplementary Budget for 2012-13, which was published on 26 June 2012.Learn more »
Oral - Social Services in Swansea
I would like to make a statement on children’s social services in Swansea.
Assembly Members will recall that I came to the Chamber in March and April last year to tell you of my response to the findings of a Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales inspection report about children’s social services in Swansea. You will recall that I announced that I had concluded that the City and County of Swansea was in default of its responsibilities under the Children Act 2004 without reasonable excuse and that I had made an Order to that effect.
The Order provided for an intervention board to provide robust challenge to Swansea so that it could be supported in achieving the changes for which it was, and remains, responsible. I said that I would ask CSSIW to undertake a full inspection of children’s social services in January to assess the progress that had been made. The report of that inspection is published today.
I am pleased to hear of the progress that is being made. CSSIW found clear experiences of good practice being delivered by front-line staff. I want to put on record again my thanks to those staff who carry out some of the most difficult work that we ask any professional to undertake. The inspection report states that,
‘in the majority of the cases examined, the quality of initial assessments was satisfactory or good with some very comprehensive initial assessments seen’.
I am pleased to hear that. However, it is clear that services in Swansea have faced pressure in dealing with demand, which has impacted across children’s services. The report is clear that there have been significant increases in workloads over recent months with higher numbers of looked-after children and children on the child protection register. However, the report makes it clear that,
‘such rates are comparable to demographically and socio-economically similar local authorities across Wales’.
The report evidences some improvements in services, but the judgment in the report is that services are inconsistent in the way that they are delivered.
I have always been clear that resolving the difficulties in Swansea requires strong political and corporate leadership by the whole council as well as a clear focus on service leadership. I know that important changes are now being made by the council.
At the end of February, decisions were made to respond to the increased demand in work by committing significant new resources to children’s social services. We know, however, that while key resource decisions have now been made, it will take some time to recruit staff into those positions. These staff will need to be supported to take on their new roles and to take on full operational work. Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales tells us that there is now much stronger challenge and accountability for these services and that performance management systems now enable the local authority to have a better understanding of its core business. There is now a strategic vision and ownership of children’s social services. These positive developments show the importance of cross-party political leadership, clear strategic direction and the importance of valuing and listening to front-line staff.
However, CSSIW makes clear that while ‘sound and effective momentum for change’ is now in place, there remain further challenges to deliver and sustain service improvement. The review team judged
‘that the local authority remains, at present, uncertainly placed to deliver and sustain service improvement’.
I therefore strongly believe that it is in the interests of children in Swansea that the Order I made remains in force and that the intervention board continues.
However, it is right to recognise the progress that has been made and I want to ensure that my actions support the council to properly embed the progress it has made to ensure that the changes are fully sustained. I will, therefore, be asking the intervention board to concentrate its work on the issues outlined in paragraph 1.3.4 of the CSSIW report, which spells out the further action that CSSIW believes needs to be taken.
It is only fair to children in Swansea, to the staff who work there and to the council as a whole that I set a clear limit to the next phase of this work. It is essential that they achieve—and this should be rapid—sustained and sustainable services at a level that meets the needs of children in Swansea. The journey to this point has already been a long one. I have therefore asked the chief inspector to provide me with a monitoring report in July on the progress that Swansea has made in embedding its plans and in making them a stronger reality on the ground. I will also be asking the chief inspector to undertake a reality check at the end of September and provide me with a report on the progress made. I will, of course, return to the Chamber to update Assembly Members once I have that report.
The importance of appointing the intervention board last year comes through in this report. CSSIW quotes the words of senior corporate officers and elected members that it was
‘“a serious wake-up call” for the local authority, not just Child and Family Services’.
I am glad that CSSIW reports that the call is now being heard and I want to put on record my thanks to the members of the board for the work they have done to provide the robust challenge to Swansea over the past months.
CSSIW is clear that there are very real green shoots of recovery and sees very real commitment from front-line staff through to senior politicians from all parties to nurture these. I greatly hope that we will be able to return in the autumn to see the fruits of these labours.