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Greenfields Won't Close As Secure Home

Greenfields will not be closed as a secure home, despite it being recommended by independent reviewers.

The Independent Children's Home Association said it was not efficient or effective, and argued that Jersey should have an ambition not to secure its children at all.

"The level of crime is relatively low and although some young people do present with behaviour that gives concern on welfare grounds, the Services should be confident in their ability to support and work positively with these young people outside of a secure environment.

"While some children will possibly require remand facilities in the future, this should be developed along with a Youth Justice system, or off-Island. However, the overall aim should be to stop children from seriously offending and to keep vulnerable children safer.

"It has been recognised in the Children’s Plan that resources need to be focussed on preventing young people being admitted to statutory services and to this end, the review recommends that the secure children’s home should be closed as a Secure Home and repurposed to provide facilities whose purpose is to work with Jersey’s traumatised children and those in crisis, in more beneficial ways."

It called for it to be converted into a centre staffed by specialist carers that provides short break services, education, emergency beds, community outreach, and therapeutic support.

Former Children's Minister Senator Sam Mezec supported that recommendation.

Three children were in Greenfields at the time of the review last year, but it has often been empty since opening in 2006. ICHA Deputy CEO Liz Cooper told Channel 103 that two of the three probably could have been dealt with differently.

Mark Owers, who is the government's Director for Safeguarding and Care, says some children will have such pronounced needs that they'll need a safe and secure environment to thrive.

"The ones that do have to go into a secure children's home we need to ensure that we invest in them during that time and in the past, whilst we've worked hard around the care, we haven't always had the consistent education and therapeutic support that they need.

"It's actually a really good opportunity to provide some of the children with the least boundaries with a contained, supportive environment where we can invest heavily in them.

"We've appointed a new manager at Greenfields and we've started already to introduce a new programme 'Secure Stairs' which has been evaluated and is evidence-based in England with the secure children's homes there and we've already embarked on rolling that out with our staff and starting to think about the development of a resource centre at Greenfields so it's more than just a secure children's home.

"So there are other professionals based up there in a multi-disciplinary, integrated way so that we can serve both children in the community and children in the secure unit."

The ICHA said that while some children may need remand facilities in the future, they should be developed off-island or along with a Youth Justice System.

Mr Owers said they don't want to see their children leaving Jersey.

As part of the government's plan to improve the Social Care Service in Jersey, Mr Owers says corporate parenting should be the number one priority for all government employees - and all departments need to take their responsibilities 'more seriously' to make sure children in care, and care leavers, get the same support that many youngsters get from their families.

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry recommended in 2017 that all States members take training after each election on their responsibilities for looked after children.

The government was accused two years later of failing to show a collective commitment to providing the best possible care and safeguarding for the children it looks after.

"We're working very closely with our partners, to ensure that before our care leavers leave care, they are prioritised for the back to work programme for example, that they're prioritised for Andium Homes as far as possible, and to make sure that everyone across government knows the children and young people that are in the care of the Minister and are doing their very most to ensure, as they approach adulthood, that they have the right access to the right services and without any undue obstacles."

Intensive support services are also being established to respond quicker to the needs of children and families in Jersey.

That includes prioritising the creation of an intensive youth support service to help children who suffer significant trauma and get involved in criminal behaviour.

That includes abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and poor parenting.

"That has led to them not necessarily being at home or finding it difficult to be at home.

"It's also resulting in them acting in a way that is disruptive in school and sometimes leads to them being not in school for their 25 hours a week, which then potentially drives them to seek each other out and then they form groups or some would even say gangs.

"Then, of course, they come to the notice of the police who try their hardest to support them.

"What we need to do as an island is to provide intensive, early support with the right professionals from education, from CAMHS in terms of therapy, from social work and together with police and health colleagues and other partners, to invest as much into understanding their needs and meeting those needs as quickly as possible and without delay." - Mark Owers, Director of Safeguarding and Care.

The government has also vowed to make sure therapeutic services are provided across all children's homes, develop a small bespoke therapeutic home, improve relationships between children and staff, and make sure managers only manage one home.

Work has started on a strategy to attract and keep high-quality social workers which includes a training plan, career development pathways, and creating a workplace where people feel safer and more valued.

Mr Owers says the government needs to also think more about how their decisions will affect children, get better at hearing the voice of the child, and improve access to support and counselling for birth parents and other relatives.

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