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Morgan: Support for vulnerable children in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"We will support all the proposed amendments and the motion, regardless of whether it is amended. We need to put the debate into context.

This debate is entitled 'Looked After Children', but, in fact, we are debating the services, care and attention and opportunities for a group of young people who, in the initial years of their lives, have faced the most miserable and distressing circumstances that we can imagine.

We are talking about a large group of young children—a group that, sadly, has increased in size quite substantially in recent years. There has been a 54 per cent increase in the past six years in the number of looked-after children.

These children have faced very difficult and challenging circumstances, perhaps as a result of bad parenting, or of physical, mental and perhaps even sexual abuse, from members not just of their immediate family, but their extended family.

Some young children will have been the subject of very complex care proceedings in the family courts, involving barristers, social services, CAFCASS and the like. That is a really miserable start to life.

We must put the debate in that context because the Assembly has an opportunity—through the Minister's quite exciting, cross-cutting brief—to ensure that the children who face some of the most severe disadvantages and who are vulnerable, in all senses of the word, have access to opportunities that, at the moment, they do not have access to.

We are in a position to improve the qualifications base of this group of young people, to help them into employment and suitable housing, and to ensure that, in the long term, they do not end up at the behest of the justice system.

I notice from the research that roughly 41 per cent of looked-after children will face the justice system at some stage in their lives after leaving care. All these statistics demonstrate the need for the cross-cutting approach that the Minister can take.

We must recognise that many young people are in homes that, according to the CSIW report last week, are inadequate in terms of the levels of statutory protection that exists and which those homes are expected to provide.

We know that many of these young children still face very challenging circumstances. We also know that local authorities have been highly criticised in recent years in a series of joint social services reports.

We must, therefore, be aware that while there has been some improvement and advance in recent years, there is still a long way to go, and we cannot afford to display any degree of complacency.

I welcome the fact that there has been an increase in this budget line—an increase of around £11 million for this financial year compared with the previous financial year. While I accept Rhodri Glyn Thomas's point about an increase in the budget, it is important that we are assured by the Government that that increase is being put to good use and that it will lead to results.

We must be aware that the statistics are particularly stark, and I point Members to my concern in relation to mental health.

Looked-after children between the ages of five and 10 are eight times more likely to suffer a mental health disorder by virtue of the fact that they are in care. The figures show that 42 per cent of the looked-after children suffered clinically significant conduct disorders.

You can almost map out the life chances of this group of young people, and it is quite stark and worrying when you consider why they are in care and what their life chances may be as a result.

Of the total number of those in care from the age of five to 17, 49 per cent will have suffered, or could suffer, a form of mental health illness. When you look at what we have done as a committee in terms of mental health, we are storing up a huge number of problems for this category of people in the long term.

Finally, the appointment of the children's commissioner has been the single most important act undertaken in recent years to improve the advocacy of young people in Wales and to improve and safeguard their rights and welfare. Long may that success continue, but we have a long way to go."

"Byddwn yn cefnogi'r holl welliannau arfaethedig a'r cynnig, pa un a fydd wedi ei wella ai peidio. Rhaid inni roi'r ddadl mewn cyd-destun. Teitl y ddadl hon yw 'Plant sy'n Derbyn Gofal', ond, mewn gwirionedd, yr ydym yn trafod y gwasanaethau, y gofal a'r sylw a'r cyfleoedd ar gyfer grwp o bobl ifanc sydd, ym mlynyddoedd cyntaf eu bywydau, wedi wynebu'r amgylchiadau mwyaf torcalonnus a thrallodus y gallwn eu dychmygu.

Yr ydym yn sôn am grwp mawr o blant ifanc—grwp sydd, yn anffodus, wedi cynyddu'n sylweddol o ran maint dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf. Bu cynnydd o 54 y cant yn y chwe blynedd diwethaf yn nifer y plant sy'n derbyn gofal.

Mae'r plant hyn wedi wynebu amgylchiadau anodd a heriol iawn, efallai o ganlyniad i rianta gwael, neu gam-drin corfforol, meddyliol a hyd yn oed rhywiol efallai, gan aelodau o'u teulu estynedig, nid dim ond eu teulu agos.

Bydd rhai plant bach wedi bod yn destun achosion gofal cymhleth iawn yn y llysoedd teulu, a fyddai wedi cynnwys bargyfreithwyr, gwasanaethau cymdeithasol, CAFCASS a'u tebyg. Mae hynny yn ddechrau torcalonnus iawn i fywyd.

Rhaid inni roi'r ddadl yn y cyd-destun hwnnw am fod gan y Cynulliad gyfle—drwy friff eithaf cyffrous, trawsbynciol y Gweinidog—i sicrhau bod y plant sy'n wynebu'r anfanteision mwyaf difrifol ac sy'n ddiamddiffyn, ym mhob ystyr y gair, yn cael y cyfleoedd nad oes ganddynt ar hyn o bryd.

Yr ydym mewn sefyllfa i wella sail cymwysterau'r grwp hwn o bobl ifanc, i'w helpu i gael gwaith a thai addas, ac i sicrhau na fyddant, yn yr hirdymor, yn dod gerbron y llys. Sylwaf o'r ymchwil y bydd tua 41 y cant o blant sy'n derbyn gofal yn dod gerbron y llys ar ryw adeg yn eu bywydau ar ôl gadael gofal. Mae'r holl ystadegau hyn yn dangos bod angen yr ymagwedd drawsbynciol y gall y Gweinidog ei mabwysiadu.

Rhaid inni gydnabod bod llawer o bobl ifanc mewn cartrefi sydd, yn ôl adroddiad Arolygiaeth Safonau Gofal Cymru yr wythnos diwethaf, yn annigonol o ran y lefelau o ddiogelwch statudol sy'n bodoli ac y disgwylir i'r cartrefi hynny eu darparu. Gwyddom fod llawer o'r plant ifanc hyn yn parhau i wynebu amgylchiadau heriol iawn.

Gwyddom hefyd fod awdurdodau lleol wedi cael eu beirniadu'n hallt yn ystod y blynyddoedd diwethaf mewn cyfres o adroddiadau gwasanaethau cymdeithasol ar y cyd.

Rhaid inni, felly, fod yn ymwybodol, er y bu peth gwelliant a datblygiad yn ystod y blynyddoedd diwethaf, fod llawer o waith i'w wneud eto, ac na allwn fforddio dangos ein bod yn llaesu dwylo o gwbl.

Croesawaf y ffaith y bu cynnydd yn y llinell gyllideb hon—cynnydd o tua £11 miliwn ar gyfer y flwyddyn ariannol hon o gymharu â'r flwyddyn ariannol flaenorol. Er fy mod yn derbyn pwynt Rhodri Glyn Thomas am gynnydd yn y gyllideb, mae'n bwysig inni gael sicrwydd gan y Llywodraeth bod y cynnydd hwnnw yn cael ei ddefnyddio'n gywir ac y bydd yn arwain at ganlyniadau.

Rhaid inni fod yn ymwybodol bod yr ystadegau yn arbennig o frawychus, a chyfeiriaf yr Aelodau at fy mhryder o ran iechyd meddwl. Mae plant rhwng pump a 10 oed sy'n derbyn gofal wyth gwaith yn fwy tebygol o ddioddef anhwylder iechyd meddwl am eu bod mewn gofal.

Dengys y ffigurau bod 42 y cant o blant sy'n derbyn gofal wedi dioddef anhwylderau ymddygiad ag iddynt arwyddocâd clinigol. Bron na allwch lunio cyfleoedd bywyd y grwp hwn o bobl ifanc, ac mae'n eithaf brawychus ac yn achosi cryn bryder pan ystyriwch pam eu bod mewn gofal a beth y gallai eu cyfleoedd bywyd fod o ganlyniad i hyn.

O'r cyfanswm o'r rhai sydd mewn gofal o 5 i 17 oed, bydd 49 y cant wedi dioddef, neu gallent ddioddef, rhyw fath o salwch iechyd meddwl. Pan ystyriwch yr hyn yr ydym wedi ei wneud fel pwyllgor o ran iechyd meddwl, yr ydym yn cronni nifer fawr o broblemau ar gyfer y categori hwn o bobl yn yr hirdymor.

Yn olaf, penodi'r comisiynydd plant yw'r un weithred bwysicaf a wnaethpwyd yn y blynyddoedd diwethaf i wella gwasanaeth eiriolaeth pobl ifanc yng Nghymru a gwella a diogelu eu hawliau a'u lles. Hir oes i'r llwyddiant hwnnw, ond mae gennym ffordd bell i fynd."

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