Education Minister Leighton Andrews has said enough is enough and taken the dramatic decision to intervene over Pembrokeshire County
Council's child safeguarding failures.
In a written statement issued this afternoon (Monday), Mr Andrews said he had issued a directive to Pembrokeshire County Council to comply with any instructions given by Graham Jones, the chairman
of the Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board.
That Board had previously been put in place to challenge the council and oversee improvements in safeguarding procedures.
But Mr Jones will now have the power to order the council to follow "any instructions that he considers reasonably necessary to ensure that the authority adequately discharges its statutory duty to
exercise its education functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children."
Tellingly, Mr Andrews said the direction "makes clear why we as a Welsh Government have little confidence in certain senior officers. It is for the Leader and the Authority to demonstrate that the
authority is taking its responsibilities for safeguarding seriously in ways which go beyond process management."
Last month Mr Andrews had written to Pembrokeshire County Council stating that they still had grave concerns about the way the council was performing when it came to child safeguarding.
Mr Andrews said that the reply from county council leader Jamie Adams had done nothing to convince Ministers that they were incorrect in their concerns.
The Minister also announced that the Wales Audit Office has been asked to bring forward its re-inspection of the authority.
Mr Andrews said: "It is a great disappointment to us that that we have had to take this step, despite all the good work of the Ministerial Board in providing support and challenge to
Pembrokeshire. We hope that the inspectorate’s reports will, by the end of the year, bring us better news. If they do not, we will have to consider taking more stringent action. "
Pembrokeshire County Council's leader, Councillor Jamie Adams, acknowledged today’s statement from the Welsh Government.
“The Authority is making good progress in addressing the issues highlighted around children’s safeguarding issues," he said.
“We remain committed to doing everything that can reasonably be expected to keep children in Pembrokeshire safe
“I recognise there is still work to be done but I am determined that with the continued support of the Welsh Government we will reach a successful outcome.”
This is the written statement by Leighton Andrews in full:
"I wish to update Members on the course of action the Welsh Government now plans to implement in respect of the safeguarding of children within the education service in Pembrokeshire.
The Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services and I wrote to the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council on 12 June. In that letter we told him that we continue to have serious concerns
about arrangements for safeguarding in education services in the county and that we were minded to issue a direction to the authority. We also asked the Leader what confidence we could have in his
The Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board and the inspectorates have reported findings that do little to allay our concerns. Nothing the Leader has said in his letter of reply or in a subsequent
email to us convinces us that the Board and the inspectorates have got it wrong. Most of what was contained in that letter was already known to us through the inspectorates and the work of the
Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board.
We have very carefully considered the correspondence from the Leader. We have checked and re-checked the facts and taken legal advice. We must know that everything is being done to make
sure that children in Pembrokeshire are safe. Having reviewed all of the evidence, we have decided to issue a direction to Pembrokeshire County Council to comply with any instructions issued by His
Honour Graham Jones, as Chair of the Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board, that he considers reasonably necessary to ensure that the authority adequately discharges its statutory duty to exercise its
education functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. Since this direction is issued under the powers conferred by the Education Act 1996, the Board will from
now on report to me and my officials.
In issuing this direction I am not absolving the local authority of its responsibilities for safeguarding. It remains the responsibility of the authority, and not the Board, to ensure the
safeguarding of children in Pembrokeshire. However, the direction makes clear why we as a Welsh Government have little confidence in certain senior officers. It is for the Leader and the
Authority to demonstrate that the authority is taking its responsibilities for safeguarding seriously in ways which go beyond process management.
I would be disappointed if the Chair were obliged to issue instructions to the authority, as I would take this as evidence of a clear failure on the part of the authority to discharge its
safeguarding duties adequately. I will not accept an argument that, because the Chair did not issue any instructions, everything must be satisfactory or that the Board agrees with the actions
of the authority. If the authority adequately discharges its statutory duty to exercise its education functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children there should
be no need for the Chair of the Board to issue any instructions. I require clear proof that we can all have confidence in the authority.
Separately, but as a further indication of the importance that Welsh Ministers attach to these matters, the Minister for Local Government and Communities has asked the Wales Audit Office to bring
forward its re-inspection of the authority.
For her part, the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services will retain a watching brief on the work of the Board and will expect to be kept informed of their progress. She wishes to
be advised immediately in the event of any safeguarding issues that arise outside of education.
We are particularly mindful of the fact that a new Director of Social services has taken up post in the authority and we expect that he will bring fresh impetus to these matters and will want to
work constructively with the Board and other partners, including working collaboratively with other authorities. In order to support the work of the Board the Deputy Minister will
strengthen her relationship with relevant cabinet members and with the new Director.
Meanwhile we expect the PMB to maintain its monitoring of the authority, as well as the engagement in democratic participation with authority members and the support being provided in the
transition to new arrangements with head teachers in Pembrokeshire. Those transition arrangements will require the authority to take on both the responsibility and the cost of taking this
work forward. We are grateful to all of the members of the Board, and their secretariat, and we congratulate them on the work they have undertaken so far. We expect the Board to remain in place
until the end of this calendar year, pending the receipt of reports from the inspectorates, after which the position may be reviewed.
The inspectorates, CSSIW and Estyn, will be conducting their re-inspections in October and their reports, together with the WAO’s report, will inform our next steps. We hope that proof of
fundamental change will be provided by the inspectorates’ reports. We cannot, however, simply wait for inspection reports at the end of the year.
I want to emphasise that we understand the difficult circumstances in which head teachers and teachers in Pembrokeshire have been working. We are aware that the local authority does not provide the
clarity or support which they are entitled to expect. I will be meeting with head teachers in Pembrokeshire, along with their union representatives, at the start of the Autumn term to hear from
The decision to issue a direction cannot be taken lightly, and any direction must be proportionate. For these reasons we have taken our time in considering all the evidence before
us. As part of our deliberations we met with the Children’s Commissioner and he has signalled his clear support for this action.
It is a great disappointment to us that that we have had to take this step, despite all the good work of the Ministerial Board in providing support and challenge to Pembrokeshire. We hope
that the inspectorate’s reports will, by the end of the year, bring us better news. If they do not, we will have to consider taking more stringent action. "