Children's Commissioner: "We've clapped for carers...we need to be cheering on our schools"

Children's Commissioner for Wales Rocio Cifuentes discusses the impact Covid has had on children and schools with Political Correspondent Owain Phillips

A woman who fled Chile with her parents as a baby and went on to study at Cambridge University has been named the new children’s commissioner for Wales.

Rocio Cifuentes arrived in the country as a one-year-old with her parents, who were political refugees.

Having read social and political science before completing a master’s in social research at Swansea University, Ms Cifuentes became the chief executive of the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team (EYST).

EYST is Wales’ leading organisation supporting black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

She previously worked for the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations, Swansea Young Single Homelessness Project, Gower College and Swansea University.

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the news on Monday and said he was “proud” Ms Cifuentes was taking over the role.

A cross-party panel of Senedd members recommended Ms Cifuentes for the position.

The First Minister has said he is “proud” Ms Cifuentes is taking over the role.

Mr Drakeford said: “The role of children’s commissioner for Wales is an extremely important one – the pandemic has caused huge disruption to the lives of children.

“That’s why it’s so important to continue to have a strong voice to speak up for them and to inform our decision-making.”

Paying tribute to the incumbent Sally Holland, he said: “From embedding children’s rights in key pieces of legislation, to providing an insight into children’s experiences of the pandemic via the large-scale, internationally renowned ‘Coronavirus and me’ surveys, Sally Holland has made an impressive and long-lasting contribution to a generation of children in Wales.”

Sally Holland has been Wales' Children's Commissioner since 2015.

Ms Cifuentes, who will take over in April 2022, said: “It’s an immense honour and privilege to be appointed as the children’s commissioner for Wales.

“As the First Minister says, the role of commissioner will be more important now than it ever has been, delivering for the generation of children that have lived through coronavirus.

“To all the children and young people of Wales, I make the commitment today to ensure your voice, your views and your future is at the heart of everything we do.”

Speaking to ITV News, the new Children's Commissioner for Wales said: "I look forward to working closely with children, but also with teachers and everyone else who's involved in making decisions about how to keep schools open in a safe and appropriate way to make sure that we can safeguard that incredibly important role that schools play.

"We can't take it for granted any more, if we clapped for the carers before, we really need to be cheering for our schools going forward. They are so crucial and children have just appreciated them so so much and we've heard that and we understand that.

"It's now up to the powers that be to really make sure that schools are protected, that teachers are protected and children are kept safe, happy and healthy."

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