Stronger Rights for Children and Carers Outlined in the Welsh 'Queen's Speech' Legislative Programme Unveiled

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Byline: David Williamson Senedd Correspondent

NEW protection for carers and vulnerable children are at the heart of the legislative programme unveiled by First Minister Rhodri Morgan yesterday.

Pledges include:

Stronger rights for children to appeal for access to educational services;standardised charges for home care;obligations on councils to collaborate with other public bodies.

In the Welsh equivalent of the Queen's Speech he promised to place a new duty on public agencies to demonstrate their contribution to ending child poverty and to provide free childcare places in specific areas.

The rights of children and young people will also be strengthened through an expansion of the range of individuals who may appeal to the Special Educational Needs Welsh Tribunal.

Mr Morgan also pledged to "establish a fairer and more consistent approach to charging for non-residential social care".

A new law, known as an Assembly Measure, will be introduced to create "a level playing field for charges for specified services levied by local authorities".

He will seek powers from Westminster to support Wales' unpaid carers by placing "appropriate duties" on public sector organisations.

Mr Morgan reaffirmed his commitment to giving local authorities the power to apply to Welsh ministers to suspend the Right to Buy in areas of housing pressure for a limited period of time.

Insisting that the Right to Buy was not being abandoned, he said: "We are not turning the clock back at all."

Further powers will besought to enable Further Education institutions in Wales to offer foundation degrees.

The First Minister also said the Assembly Government will seek powers to make laws affecting the red meat industry, which could help grow the industry.

Local authorities may find themselves under new obligations to promote arts, cultural and sporting facilities, if the Assembly Government gains the ability to legislate in this area.

An additional requirement for councils and publicbodies to work together is expected to emerge in the near future.

Mr Morgan wants to drive forward an improvement in the provision of cultural services by placing these "on a similar footing to other local authority statutory services".

The ability to seek new powers through Legislative Competence Orders and make legislation via Assembly Measures is a direct result of the Government of Wales Act, which came into force after last year's Assembly elections. …