'More Work Needed' To Protect Jersey's Children

Much more work is needed to make sure vulnerable children in Jersey are protected - according to the Jersey Care Inquiry - who have reported on what progress has been made over the last two years.

The Panel first published a report in July 2017, exposing decades of abuse in the island's care system.

It then set out ten findings and eight recommendations, which it asked the government to act upon.

Whilst praising some of the work - including the appointment of a Children's Commissioner - there were several areas of criticism and calls for improvements, including:

Improving the complaints process and introducing a statutory right to raise a complaint about any aspect of a Children's Service.

"We consistently heard from a range of people, including young people and their families, that they found it difficult to raise concerns. One young person described the current States website feedback mechanism 'difficult, clunky and overly cumbersome."

"Ensuring that young people and their families can raise matters about concerns, with confidence that they will receive a timely response, is essential to building confidence in services."

Corporate Parenting - Introduce mandatory training for all States Members to underline the importance of the welfare of children in the care of the States of Jersey.

"We are strongly of the view that it is essential for all States Members to show leadership through acquiring understanding and acknowledging acceptance of their role as corporate parents."

Building a stable and sustainable workforce to deliver practice standards and quality services.

"We heard from young people that they had had numerous social workers and indeed one young person told us that she no longer bothered to learn the name of her social worker since they changed so often."

"Real progress in stabilising and improving the quality of Children's Services cannot be made until the vast majority of social worker posts are filled on a permanent basis by well-qualified professionals who are committed to staying in Jersey, delivering strong and innovate services for the island's children and their families."

Frances Oldham QC, a member of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry Panel, addressing the progress report to more than 100 people at St Paul's Centre.

Consulting with foster carers and creating a strong fostering service.

"We remain deeply concerned that foster carers continue to experience unnecessary difficulties in their relationship with Children's Services. It is the case that those whom we heard from still did not feel that they were treated as knowledgeable partners in a team working with the child, and some felt they were considered, in their words, 'minions'"

"Foster Carers felt little consideration had been given to the experience of service users, and particularly children using the building, (where Children's Services are now housed) given that contact with families of origin can be a deeply stressful experience that a child faces, over and over. Rooms for contact were described as 'cupboards'"

Creating a model of social work practice which offers effective help for families experiencing hardship and distress that fits Jersey

"The Children's Service operation seems to be disproportionately influenced by the activities of the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)"

"Parents told us they had been 'Mashed' on repeated occasions, that the process had not been understood by them nor had it affected any change in their circumstances."

"We estimated its (MASH) annual costs were in the region of £700,000, while we could find no indication of what specific outcomes were anticipated in terms of keeping children safe, let alone what had been achieved. We question whether this is the best use of money and resource."

Re-considering the future of Haut de la Garenne, moving all residential childcare from Les Chenes and demolishing the Greenfields Building

"It is our view that the Greenfields building is entirely unsuitable for the care and welfare of distressed children and young people and that it would not be capable of being transformed into a more appropriate facility. It should be replaced with small homely units within which close support can be provided when necessary."

"We understand that the public view was that the (Haut de la Garenne) building should not be demolished. It remains our view that the building should be demolished and the site not used for any public services for children or victims of abuse.

"While the Haut de la Garenne building, in which much abuse occurred over so many years remains in situ, it will, in our view, continue to fuel negative perceptions."

Hundreds of islanders came out in support of saving Haut de la Garenne, despite the abuse that took place in the former children's home

The government has received praise for hiring a Children's Commissioner, although the panel did make it clear that the Commissioner should have access to all documents she may need in the pursuit of any inquiry.

'Jersey Cares' has also been lauded - along with the work of the inspectorate and the Children's Rights Officer - "to give confidence that the failures and inadequacies of the past are avoided and that high-quality are developed and sustained in Jersey."

This review completes the Care Inquiry's work, but it has called on further external reviews every five years to ensure that progress continues.

"This could be in the form, for instance, of a quinquennial review, to be undertaken by an independent person coinciding with the reporting of compliance with the principle s of the UNCRC.

"We believe Jersey has the potential to learn from its past in order to put in place truly world-class services for children. Some long-held approaches will need to be relinquished to allow new ones to develop to ensure a better future for the island's children."

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