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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 16:49 GMT
Children's Society workers in rescue bid
Children's Society staff at a meeting in mid Wales
Staff at the society have been stunned by the news
Children's Society workers are planning to stage a rescue bid to stop the organisation closing down its operations in Wales.

Many of the 120 workers in Wales faced with losing their jobs next summer are prepared to take over some or all of the 13 projects running in Wales.

Defiant society staff meeting in Llandrindod Wells said they questioned the financial information given to trustees and they also queried the lack of consultation with the Welsh Assembly and Children's Commissioner for Wales.
Archbishop of Wales Rowan Williams
Archbisop Rowan Williams: Resigned

Following the crisis meeting, the staff issued a joint statement: "We will ask The Children's Society to provide us with detailed financial information, to organise the transfer of properties and equipment and to provide access to essential information in order to facilitate the continuation of our work."

Child care experts from other charities in Wales have also announced they are forming a group aimed at setting up a new, independent advocacy service for Wales.

Meanwhile, Assembly Social Services Minister Jane Hutt is to hold urgent meetings with Children's Society officials over its decision to close its Welsh operation, announced on Monday.

The decision by the cash-strapped charity to end its links with Wales - saving 1.3m - after more than 100 years has provoked a storm of protest.

The Archbishop of Wales Rowan Williams, has resigned as vice president of the church charity.

And the Children's Commissioner for Wales, Peter Clarke, said he would be lobbying for a rescue package to try to make the charity change its mind.

'Complete shock'

Around 120 jobs will be lost when the charity closes its entire Welsh operation in nine months.

The decision was officially announced on Tuesday afternoon and reflects a significant drop in the society's funds.

Chief executive Ian Sparks said they had tried to find an alternative, but that reducing the Welsh operation would not have been effective.

Jane Hutt said the charity's London HQ had not been in touch with the Welsh Assembly over their plans, nor had they sought any kind of financial help.

The decision to pull out had come as a complete shock to her.

"I think the UK HQ still have not embraced the kind of communication and partnership that we willingly want to offer them," said Mrs Hutt.

Children's Society Chief Executive Ian Sparks
Children's Society Chief Executive Ian Sparks

One of Britain's leading children's charities, the society is facing fierce criticism over its decision to leave Wales.

It plans to close 13 advocacy projects, many of which were set up as a response to the Waterhouse report on child abuse in north Wales.

Assembly Health Minister Jane Hutt said she wanted to meet with the Children's Society "urgently" over its decision to axe its services in Wales.

Ms Hutt, who said she had no previous indication about the society's plans, said she was "very concerned" by the announcement.

Each of the society's projects were intended to give a voice to children in the care of local authorities.

The society also runs community projects in some of the poorest parts of Wales, like one in Merthyr Tydfil and others in Pembrokeshire and Powys.

Wales's Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke:
Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke: Meeting

Archbishop Williams said he was angered by the way the charity had acted.

"I do feel angry that there was no communication sooner...that we were not offered information sooner," he said.

The Church in Wales and the Church of England are major benefactors of the society, but donations have fallen away.

Protect children

A sharp decline in the stock market following the terrorist attacks of 11 September led to the society losing large amounts of money.

Ian Sparks, Chief Executive of The Children's Society said: "It is with great sadness and regret that we are forced to close our work in Wales.

"We have worked in Wales for 113 years and in that time we have been supported generously and unstintingly by the people of Wales and in particular through the Church in Wales."

Findings from the Waterhouse Report into abuse in north Wales children's homes also led to the establishment of the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Part of the commissioner's role is intended to liaise with groups dealing with protecting children's rights, such as the Children's Society.

Recently installed commissioner Peter Clarke said he would urgently seek talks with both the charity and the Welsh Assembly.

He said the society was an integral part of the children's protection network in Wales.

"We were hoping to build on them- not find them disappear overnight," Mr Clarke said.

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:

07 Nov 01 | Wales
Giving children hope
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