Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
Today is recognised globally as Universal Children’s Day. This year is a special celebration marking 25 years of the ratification of the UNCRC.
Our Vision for Children is clear – we want a Wales where children’s rights are a reality for each and every child. This is why we place such an emphasis on the UNCRC. Children must be safe, have access to good education, good homes, spaces to play, be respected, have a voice and not be disadvantaged because of poverty or where they live.
We have encapsulated the UNCRC in law, with the full implementation of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure in May 2014. Assembly Members approved our Children’s Rights Scheme in April 2014 and we now have processes and systems in place which helps us have due regard to children’s rights. They apply to all Ministers and Officials and therefore, impact on legislation, policies and guidance. This, in turn, influences services on the ground and outcomes for children, young people and their families.
The First Minister has stated this Government’s focus on outcomes for the people of Wales. We have moved to a model which puts outcomes for children and young people at the heart of all Ministerial decisions.
Today, Ministers across the Cabinet will be celebrating Universal Children’s Day by visiting children and young people’s settings and seeing first-hand the positive difference we are making as a Government.
The Minister for Finance and Government Business will be visiting Plas Pawb; an integrated Children’s Centre, established to offer play, educational, care, health and family support services in order to provide the best possible start in life for the children of Cadnant and Peblig wards in Caernarfon. For families who are supported through the Flying Start programme in this area, free child care for 2-3 years olds, parenting groups and health consultation areas are all available to them under one roof.
Flying Start’s aim is to give children a better start in life and, in the longer term, this should see young people being less disadvantaged because of the communities in which they grow up. In the short term the programme is not only helping to provide parents with the skills they need to support their child’s development, but also giving them the opportunity to access training and support to improve their employment prospects and so take them out of poverty.
Over the 4 year period 2012-16 a total of £282.9 million has been made available through the Flying Start Programme. This has enabled the number of children benefitting to double from 18,000 to 36,000, through increased support for families, health visiting and nursery places by the end of this Assembly term in 2016.
The Minister for Education, Huw Lewis, is visiting three schools in North Wales to see how they are raising standards. The changes we are proposing to qualifications in Wales will deliver a high quality and well respected national qualifications system for Wales. Central to the improved system is a renewed focus on literacy, numeracy and greater rigour and making the qualifications which young people work towards more appropriate to the modern age.
The Deputy Minister for Health is visiting the children's cancer unit in University Hospital Wales in Cardiff, where young cancer patients in South Wales have access to specialist treatment and facilities, including family accommodation, a teenage lounge with internet café, younger children’s playrooms and a parent lounge.
I am meeting with Local Authority Education Cabinet leads to discuss making high quality and affordable childcare available to all. One of the biggest challenges faced by parents is the childcare affordability trap, particularly by the parents of disabled children. Access to childcare can be vital to enable parents to participate in work or education and thus avoid social exclusion. This is critical to the tackling poverty agenda. In addition, we have published a new Child Poverty Strategy for Wales and like the Action Plan, this will include a strong focus on supporting parents into work. The draft Revised Child Poverty Strategy has been published for a 12-week consultation period.
I met with the Presiding Officer yesterday to discuss how our respective youth participation and engagement work can continue to complement one another. I was pleased to hear about the tremendous work Assembly committees are doing to include young people’s voices in their work and welcome the Presiding Officer’s consultation on voting at 16 which she launches today. I am confident together with the national participation model being developed by Children in Wales and in partnership with the innovative and inspiring participation work being taken forward by Local Authorities, we will be reaching and enabling the voices of thousands of children and young people to be heard.
Tomorrow, I will be visiting St. Christopher’s School in Wrexham where they have achieved level 2 of the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools Award. This is one of a number of school’s in Wales which has put the UNCRC at the heart of the school’s culture by putting the rights into practice every day.
Making these visits and seeing children’s rights become a reality for these children and young people, with real outcomes, is what continues to drive this Government. I hope you will join us in celebrating this day and in celebrating our children and young people.