What to expect in 2019

Des Mannion
Thursday, January 3, 2019

Last November saw the mid-point between Welsh Assembly elections, and offered us the chance to take stock of what had been achieved in the political area to further the cause of child protection in the two-and-a-half years since the last election.

Before Wales went to the polls on 5 May 2016 we developed our own NSPCC ‘manifesto' which we believed would improve the lives of children in Wales if taken up by the politicians standing for election - 23 asks which, if adopted, would result in safer childhoods for children across Wales.

So as we pass the halfway point of this assembly, it is pleasing to know that the majority of the measures we called for have been delivered or are currently in progress.

We called for a plan to improve online safety, better protecting children from cyberbullying, sexting and grooming. This action plan was published in July.

Similarly, the Welsh government has announced it will draw up an action plan to tackle child sexual abuse with a focus on prevention in 2019.

We also asked for changes to legislation in Wales such as the removal of the defence of ‘reasonable punishment' to give children equal protection against assault under the law.

This common sense move is derided as a ‘smacking ban' by critics but it is due to become law in Wales in 2019 - a major step forward for fairness and for child protection.

Access for children and young people to compulsory preventative education to equip them to stay safe from abuse or neglect was a measure we believed was badly needed and this too has been announced and delivered in the new Welsh curriculum.

We also saw the creation of the position of a children's minister within the Welsh government, bringing a focus on the needs of children to the heart of the Welsh cabinet, although it is concerning that the position has now been discontinued by the new first minister Mark Drakeford.

In 2016, we asked politicians who were standing for election to support our aims. To know that at the midpoint of the assembly term that most of our asks have either been achieved or are in progress shows that we can make a real difference in the lives of children in Wales.

It is fantastic that there has been a clear focus by the Welsh government on improving the lives of our nation's youngest citizens.

However, as we enter 2019 there is still a huge amount to do.

Tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation, providing better mental health support for children who have experienced abuse and neglect and making young people much safer while they are online must be key priorities for the Welsh government between now and the 2021 election and the NSPCC will work hard to make sure progress is made.

Des Mannion is head of service, NSPCC Cymru

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