Byline: By MADELEINE BRINDLEY Western Mail
Children must be given the same protection against assault as adults receive from the law, charities said today. Welsh children's charities believe this would be a major step towards stamping out child abuse, levels of which have not fallen for 30 years.
The demand is part of a six- point children's manifesto designed to improve all aspects of the lives of vulnerable children in Wales.
The manifesto, called Room for Improvement, demands action on child poverty, sexual exploitation, abuse and mental health.
It is being launched as the pre- election round of party political conferences - starting with the Plaid Cymru conference in Caernarfon - begins today.
And it follows research carried out for Barnardo's Cymru, NCH Cymru, NSPCC Cymru and Save the Children which found half of all voters believe the Government is not doing enough to help and support vulnerable children.
Raymond Ciborowski, director of Barnardo's Cymru, said, 'We aim to help vulnerable children and young people have a better start in life.
'Every day we come across children and young people who have been badly let down by society - for example, we work with young people with mental health problems who say the mental health services they have received have left them worse off rather than better. We work with families ground down by poverty.
'We need political action now to bring about the changes we need to improve life for young people.
'The children's charities are speaking with one voice and we are challenging the politicians to make election pledges about these changes.'
Room for Improvement, which has been endorsed by Children in Wales, the umbrella body for children's charities in Wales, calls for action on:
Children in Care - 44% of children in care, aged five to 17, have mental health disorders.
Children's charities in Wales want mental health services for young people in care and leaving care that are easily accessible and geared to young people's needs
Poverty - one in three children in Wales grows up in poverty.
Children's charities want all families to receive a guaranteed minimum income to cover the real costs of providing necessities for children's well-being.
Richard Powell, Save the Children's director for Wales programmes, said, 'Our research shows that up to a million children in the UK live in severe and persistent poverty.
'As we see in our work, for the children that live in such poverty, life is a constant struggle.
'It's going to be a much tougher job to lift these children out of poverty, requiring radical policies from the next government.'
Sexual exploitation - at least 250 children are known to have been trafficked in the UK in the last five years.
Children's charities want resources made available to identify, protect and support children who are sexually exploited. …