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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
'No time' on counselling service
Jane Davidson
Jane Davidson said the recommendations took time
Education Minister Jane Davidson cannot say when a counselling service will be set up as recommended in a major child abuse report published a year ago.

The service is a key recommendation from the children's commissioner after his inquiry into sexual abuse by drama teacher and writer John Owen.

Owen, a teacher in south Wales, killed himself while awaiting trial.

One victim's parent is among those concerned about the time it is taking to introduce a counselling service.

An independent counselling service for children was one of the 31 recommendations made by Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke after he conducted the Clywch inquiry.

Fourteen of those recommendations were directed at the assembly government.

Interviewed on BBC Radio Wales, Education Minister Jane Davidson said it was taking time to train counsellors. "The vast majority were about changing guidelines, about changing practice and that does take time," said Ms Davidson.

John Owen
John Owen taught at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen

"I absolutely accept it has taken longer than the commissioner originally identified, but I think it is also important to say the commissioner and my officials have been working very closely, so he knows that action is being taken on these areas he has concerns about. "

She said she strongly supported the counselling service, and was looking at schemes already in operation in Rhondda Cynon Taf and Wrexham.

But she said issues such as expanding those services and training new staff meant it was difficult to say when a national scheme would be established.

"I couldn't give you a date now in all honesty," she said.

"We are certainly not talking about something that could happen across Wales for example in the next year."

We felt tribunals would go some way towards fairness towards teachers and towards children
Maria Battle

The mother who first raised concerns about Owen told the BBC Wales news website that the counselling service was "very important".

"It is probably the most important - children need someone they can turn to and trust, they need an independent service," she said.

"It is crucial - surely there should be a shortcut."

She also said that the recommendation to bring in independent tribunals was also key, and expressed disappointment that it might not be introduced as Mr Clarke had envisaged.

Ms Davidson said there were "major practical issues" against the tribunals, and she was working on a Welsh alternative in association with Mr Clarke's office.

Peter Clarke
Peter Clarke made 31 recommendations in the report

"We are literally about to consult on a very imaginative proposal about setting up an independent investigation service which the assembly will pay for," she said.

But Maria Battle, the deputy children's commissioner for Wales, said there were concerns about this idea.

"If that actually delivers what [Mr Clarke] wanted - i.e. independence, fairness and speed - then he broadly welcomes that, but the devil is in the detail," he said.

"We will be watching developments very closely."

The Clywch report, which was published in July 2004, described how Owen serially sexually abused pupils over a period of two decades.


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