Select Committee on Welsh Affairs First Report


The Welsh Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:



The Children's Society is a charity which operates in England and Wales, providing a range of services for children and young people in need and seeking to influence Government policy in that area. Its work with children in Wales is very highly regarded, as is its co-operation with local government in Wales. The Charity was founded in 1881 under the auspices of the Church of England and retains strong links to the Anglican Church in England and Wales. In October 2001, in response to financial pressures brought about in part by its failure to meet ambitious fundraising targets, the Society's Board of Trustees decided to withdraw completely from Wales, closing 13 projects. The Committee sought written evidence from the Society about the reasons for the decision and called representatives to give evidence in person.

The Committee accepts that the Society is facing financial difficulties, and acknowledges that cuts of some kind were necessary. However, it concludes that the Society is unable to offer compelling reasons for the decision to withdraw entirely from Wales, rather than to implement some other pattern of cuts (paragraph 16). It regrets the fact that nobody, not even the Society's own managers in Wales, was consulted before the decision was taken and that it appears to have been taken hastily, without the involvement of the Society's own Welsh Advisory Group (paragraphs 22 & 25) and on the basis of inaccurate or incomplete information (paragraph 23). The Committee recommends that the Children's Society review its procedures for making information available to Trustees in order to ensure that they are presented with more accurate information in the future (paragraph 23).

The Committee commends the National Assembly's swift response to the situation, which was to establish a Task Force led by Children in Wales to examine possible options for continuing the Society's work in Wales. The Committee calls on the UK Government to monitor the situation closely with a view to offering any assistance which it might reasonably give (paragraph 32). The Committee supports the proposal of the National Assembly's Voluntary Sector Partnership Council for the introduction of a voluntary code of practice which would enable organisations in the voluntary sector to commit themselves to consultation with funders, stakeholders and service users before withdrawing from, or otherwise significantly altering their delivery of services in, Wales. It calls on the Government to consider whether adopting the code of practice should be a precondition of receiving financial support from the Government (paragraph 34).

The Committee notes that some of the Children's Society's advertising in the months following the decision may inadvertently have given the impression that its work in Wales would continue and recommends that the Society take pains to ensure that this impression is not given in the future (paragraph 36).

The Committee will send a copy of the Report to the Charity Commission so that it may take a view on whether any of the Committee's findings warrant further investigation (paragraph 38).

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Prepared 15 February 2002