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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 16:46 GMT
Giving children hope
child poverty
The society has helped thousands of children in Wales
The Children's Society in Wales has fallen foul of brutal economics after 113 years, during which time thousands of children have been helped.

Facing a shortfall of millions of pounds next year, the society announced it is to axe all 13 projects in Wales, which will close in June 2002.
Disadvantaged children
The society works to protect disadvantaged children

The decision has come as a particular blow in the wake of the Waterhouse Report two years ago, which paved the way for bespoke schemes to help and protect children.

The society began operating in Wales in 1887, working to save children who could fall into "moral danger" from prostitution and crime.

It worked closely with the Church in Wales, which provided a valuable source of the society's funding.

Victorian records showed that 85% of children in Wales were living in single parent families - many the victims of bereavement and separation.

The Children's Society in England and Wales:
1887: Society begins work in Wales
1893: 85% of children living in single parent families
1919: 5,000 children being cared for in 130 homes
1933: Society marks 50th year having helped 37,000 children
1975: Becomes registered adoption agency
1960-80: 10,000 children posted for adoption
British society found itself struggling to cope with the effects of children whose simply parents could not afford to look after them.

The Children's Society in Wales stepped in to provide a safety net, running industrial and reformatory schools, which gave children a start in life.

The society also developed homes for children with disabilities in the 1880s and also began working with young offenders.

For 90 years, the organisation worked closely with councils and other bodies in Wales to help children find foster parents and provide other basic support services.

But in the 1970s, the society took a sideways step into more innovative projects, looking to prevent the problems children faced, tackling poverty and trying to educate against unwanted births, breaking new ground.
The society has worked to help children living in poverty
The society has worked to help children living in poverty

Branching into community work, the society also acted to prevent youths in Wales who broke the law being put in custody and carried out a range of schemes with disabled children.

The 1990s saw a third transformation of the society's work in Wales, as it stepped into a "child-centred" role, actively listening to young people and campaigning for organisations to improve the quality of their lives.

The long-term vision led to the establishment of child advocacy measures and schemes to protect the rights of children in care, which was recently boosted with the creation of the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

UK-wide the society currently works with 40,000 children and young people in over 100 projects across England and Wales, including children at risk on the streets, in prison, living in poverty and at risk of exclusion from school.

In Wales, two advocacy projects were established in Wrexham and Bangor, with others in Cardiff and Caerphilly, Bridgend, Swansea/Neath Port Talbot and the U-Can project in south east Wales.

Each of the advocacy schemes has been described by the society as being "absolutely vital" towards achieving the aims laid down by Sir Ronald Waterhouse in his report into child abuse in Wales.
Parts of Wales suffer from severe social problems
Parts of Wales suffer from severe social problems

In addition, the pilot Forward Steps project in Neath Port Talbot is another step towards helping children in crisis deal with insecurities arising from moved between placements.

The Cardiff Family Group Conference project has brought families together and helped them deal with crisis situations involving children.

Other projects affected by the closure programme include the Mid Wales Rural Initiative in Powys, the St David's Diocesan Team, Carmarthen and the Valleys Community Development Unit, in Pontypridd, which works with credit unions and community skills workshops.

Peter Clarke, the Children's Commissioner for Wales, has expressed his concern that some other organisation must now be found to step in and continue the advocacy projects.

Mr Clarke said it is vital they do not "disappear overnight" next June, leaving a huge gap to fill in child services.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Penny Roberts
"In just nine months the Children's Society will cease operating in Wales"
Archbishop Rowan Williams
"I can understand the severe problems behind this decision"
Ian Sparks, chief executive, Children's Society
"We are paying the price for over optimism"
See also:

06 Nov 01 | Wales
Appeal over charity withdrawal
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