Council scheme put children at risk

By Marcus Law in Politics

A SCHEME which has worked with almost 700 children in Monmouthshire primary schools has been branded “deeply troubling” after concerns about children being put at risk.

The Kerbcraft scheme is a road safety scheme for children aged between five and seven and has operated since 2002. The service employs three co-ordinators who recruit volunteers and work in partnership with schools to support children to gain the skills and confidence to safely cross the road. A projection for the years 2016/17 found that Kerbcraft will have worked with 26 Monmouthshire primary schools and delivered road safety training to around 673 children.

The independent review, conducted by the Auditor General of the Welsh Audit Office (WAO) in 2015, found a number of issues with the scheme, suggesting that children were being “put at risk because of continuing weaknesses in safeguarding” and that the council had provided “inconsistent, partial and misleading information” during the investigation.

A joint venture company, Capita Gwent Consultancy Limited, managed the Welsh Government-funded scheme for the 10 years from inception until 2012, before it was taken over by MCC.

In August 2015, the scheme was temporarily suspended after concerns were raised about safeguarding. According to the report, a council officer alleged that MCC’s record keeping relating to volunteers working on the scheme was inadequate, and also stated that the council could not demonstrate that Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) arrangements were being adhered to, thereby putting children at risk.

The report said: “We have concluded that children are being put at risk because of continuing weaknesses in safeguarding arrangements for the Kerbcraft scheme that the council has not adequately addressed.

“We have come to this conclusion because there are continuing weaknesses in the council’s safeguarding arrangements for the Kerbcraft scheme, and the council has failed to act in a timely and responsible manner to improve safeguarding arrangements for the Kerbcraft scheme, and has provided inconsistent, partial and misleading information to auditors.”

Dimitri Batrouni, leader of the council’s Labour group, said: “What the Welsh Audit Office has told us is deeply troubling. We should all be concerned with the statement that the council have mislead the WAO on such a serious issue as our children’s safety. Since I was elected in 2012, the Conservatives have failed twice on safeguarding in relation to our children, first with the damning Estyn report in 2012, and now with this. This is obviously completely unacceptable. I was assured after the Estyn report that the Tories were prioritising safeguarding for our children, but this report indicates otherwise.”

An MCC spokesperson said: “As a result of the WAO report about the kerbcraft scheme the council adopted an action plan in March. Officers are proceeding with implementing the action plan and a report was recently approved by cabinet to adopt new procedures for the kerbcraft service along with improved governance arrangements whereby cabinet and a select committee will receive updates on the performance of the scheme.”

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