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Some of Wales’ most vulnerable children and young people are unaware of their statutory right to an independent professional ‘voice’ due to a system without a clear set of checks and balances, according to the Children’s Commissioner, Keith Towler.

In a report, titled Missing Voices, the Commissioner outlined the findings of his first statutory review which looked at independent professional advocacy for looked after children and young people, care leavers and children in need.

The review found that there is:

  • a lack of clarity and consistency about the way services are commissioned across Wales;
  • a lack of strategic leadership by Welsh Government to make sure eligible children and young people have equal access; and
  • no annual or systematic monitoring inspection or regulation of the service.

Keith Towler commented:

“It saddens me to say that some of Wales’ most vulnerable children and young people don’t know they’re entitled to have an independent professional advocate to represent their views. The purpose of my review is not to point the finger of blame at anyone but instead to reinvigorate national and local partners to get Wales back on track so that no child is denied access to a professional advocate.”

The review makes 29 recommendations for improvement, and the Welsh Ministers and local authorities covered under the review now have three months to respond.

The Children's Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, is supporting the development of a blueprint for advocacy services that will enable vulnerable children to access support to allow them to have more of a say in decisions that will affect their lives.