Ten months after the Welsh Government sent a team into Pembrokeshire to help sort out the failings in its children's services, ministers have given the council ten days to fully face up to its problems. Education Minister Leighton Andrews and Social Services Minister Gwenda Thomas have written to Cllr Jamie Adams, the leader of Pembrokeshire Council, saying that they have 'continuing grave concerns'.
Some of the greatest concern is about the way that disruptive children are sometimes treated in schools and pupil referral units.
- On occasions, chief officers have appeared either not to have known what is happening in their schools, or known and failed to disclose it or to take action when needed. Even after the media had printed a story of a teacher tying a primary school child’s hands behind his back, the Director of Education failed to intervene when the school took inappropriate action, and the PMB had to tell him what he should do.
- The PMB has found instances of ‘time out’ and withdrawal rooms in primary schools where children may have been locked in, yet senior officers claimed to know nothing about these rooms and were slow to act when informed of their existence. Officers still do not share information with elected members to enable them to make informed judgements. Often the elected members must rely on information from the PMB before they are able to act.
It appears that there at least five padded rooms in which children are locked in Pembrokeshire and at least 18 other so-called 'time out' rooms. The ministers say that the use of such rooms could only be appropriate, other than in the most exceptional circumstances, for brief periods and under supervision. Misuse could break the law and the ministers say that the evidence they have seen has been passed to the police.