Letter from the Minister for Health and
Social Services, National Assembly for Wales to the Chairman of
Thank you for sending a copy of the transcript
of the evidence session of 18 December to me and to Edwina Hart
AM, Minister for Finance and Communities. I am responding on behalf
of the Welsh Assembly Government to your invitation to provide
a written submission.
The Welsh Assembly Government is grateful to
the Welsh Affairs Committee for calling the Children's Society
to account before the Committee for its decision to withdraw from
Wales. The transcript of the evidence session makes illuminating
and disturbing reading and the Members of the Committee are to
be commended for the thoroughness and tenacity of their examination.
The questions asked by Members are those many people in Wales
would have wished to ask and it is clear that the witnesses were
left in no doubt as to the strength of feeling the decision has
generated. The Committee's decision to hold this inquiry is a
warning to other organisations that they may be held accountable
for their actions if they disregard proper consultative process.
It is to be hoped that the Children's Society will hold to it's
word to co-operate with the Task Force in Wales to discuss ways
to carry the work of the projects forward to March 2003 and to
transfer the fundraising base in Wales. The signs are encouraging
and the Committee's interest has no doubt helped.
The Committee's questions were thorough and
there are only two items of additional background information
the Assembly Government would wish to bring to your attention.
Firstly, the Children's Society Report and Financial
Statement for 2000-01, published in July 2001, refers on page
6 under the heading of Future Plans, to the results of a fundraising
review and a revised fundraising strategy which will be presented
to the Trustees for approval in October 2001. It also refers to
a review of the direct work with, children, focusing on the size
and scope of the Society's work and the allocation of the associated
management resources, and states:
"This is intended to ensure that the Society's
work is focused on those areas where it can have the greatest
impact and that projects and teams will have sufficient resources
to do their work effectively. The recommendations of this review
will also be presented to the Council in October 2001"
In the same section, the report says:
"The Council has approved the establishment
of a Wales Advisory Committee following the advent of the Wales
Assembly. This is the first step in what will he a continuing
process to review the relationship between the Society's work
in England and in Wales in the light of devolution from Westminster
On page 10, the report refers to the Society's
funding deficit and says:
"The Trustees remain committed to reaching
a surplus before gains and losses on investments and other assets
in 2002-03, recognising that some painful decisions may be necessary
to achieve this."
Two points arise from this:
(i) It seems likely that the thinking which
led to the decision to withdraw from Wales was already under way
by July 2001, yet such thinking is entirely at odds with the establishment
of a Wales Advisory Committee and a continuing process of review
in the light of devolution.
(ii) It is regrettable that the Wales Advisory
Committee was not involved in the decision making process.
Secondly, one of the factors taken into account
by the Society in coming to its decision was that funding from
local partnerships under the Assembly Government's Children and
Youth Partnership grant scheme of a number of advocacy projects
would cease from April 2002. Mr Sparks refers in his evidence
to the Committee (page 21 of the transcript) to discussions with
people in Wales the previous year about cost savings, that were
on the basis that the advocacy projects ran to 2002.
It is clear from Mr Sparks evidence on this
matter that there was no further discussion or consultation with
staff in Wales on this matter prior to decisions being taken to
close the operation in Wales.
In fact, whilst the Children and Youth Partnership
grant scheme was initially a three year scheme, ending in 2002,
it was made clear in 2001 that the scheme would continue until
2003. In August 2001 bids were invited for the 2002-03 financial
Prior to that, wide consultation had taken place
on proposals for successor arrangements by way of a Unified Children
and Young People's Support Fund against which bids would be invited
from 2003-04 onwards. Representatives of the Children's Society
in Wales were invited to consultation conferences on these proposals.
It would have been a simple and a sensible action
for the Society to contact its own staff, its funding partners,
and the Assembly Government to establish the position, prior to
making a decision to close projects. That it did not is both inconceivable
and regrettable. It shows utter disregard for all parties in Wales;
the children, the staff, the funding partners and the Assembly
Finally, the Welsh Assembly Government is concerned
that other voluntary organisations should not act in similar fashion.
The Assembly Government would support the Committee asking the
Charity Commission to look at the circumstances in this case.
The Voluntary Sector Partnership Council in Wales, which I Chair,
has raised the question of the possibility of other voluntary
or organisations with headquarters/decision making outside Wales
following a similar course of action if funding difficulties arise.
When the Council met in December, we considered
a paper which set out a number of practical steps that could be
taken that will enable UK organisations to reassure their funders
and stakeholders, and the people and communities that they serve,
of their continuing commitment to Wales. I propose to write to
Angela Eagle in the Home Office in view of that Department's responsibility
for the Charity Commission. I will copy my letter to you.
Jane Hutt AM
17 January 2002