Care reform: Funding and staffing the key, say States Members

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A lengthy in-committee debate – one which has no vote and no time limit – was held in the Chamber to give Members the chance to discuss how best to respond to last year’s damning inquiry report.

And Health Minister Andrew Green threw his support behind introducing professional foster carers in the Island to provide support both to vulnerable children and to those caring for them.

Several Members, including Deputy Jackie Hilton, raised concerns about the problems the Island has in recruiting and retaining social workers.

Senator Green said: ‘The retention of staff is something we have taken on board and taken seriously.

‘It is important that we train our own staff and don’t solely rely on importing people all the time. From October, we will be offering a social-work degree and training our own people locally.

‘I also want to talk about foster carers. The question was raised of professional foster carers, and that is something that I agree with – I want to see how we would introduce the role of professional foster carers.’

In its report, the inquiry panel made eight core recommendations for improving the lives of vulnerable young children living in Jersey. The first recommendation – the appointment of the Island’s first Children’s Commissioner – has already been completed, and Deborah McMillan, who was in the States Chamber for the debate, took up the post earlier this year.

Chief Minister Ian Gorst committed to implementing all the recommendations shortly after the inquiry report was released last July. He has released a 43-point action plan for completing the recommendations.

He said: ‘Throughout this debate and the delivery of this action plan we must focus always on outcomes for children.

‘Saying sorry will only be legitimate, will only be accepted by those to whom we ought to be sorry, if we change.

‘It will have meant very little if we wrung our hands, if we said the words but do not change. That is why this action plan is so important.

‘It will show to those who suffered that we were and we are sorry for what they suffered.

‘We can show it only by delivering the change necessary to ensure the outcomes for children in our community are transformed so that never again do we have to read such a report.’

Deputy Sam Mézec, who is chairing a Scrutiny sub-panel examining the Chief Minister’s progress on the inquiry report, said that there had been a ‘greater emphasis on treating young people’s views seriously’.

However, he reiterated concerns raised in a report from his panel that the Jersey Youth Service needed greater financial assurances to enable it to continue supporting young people.

Several other Members, including Deputy Simon Brée, echoed the concerns about a lack of funding strategy for the action plan. Deputy Brée said that unless the funding was committed the plan was ‘never going to work properly’.

One of the suggestions put forward by the inquiry was that Haut de la Garenne should be torn down. Members seemed split on whether this should happen, with several politicians arguing that the building, which is now a thriving activity centre, should remain in place.

Others, including Deputies Montfort Tadier and Russell Labey, said that the future of the building should be decided upon by abuse survivors who lived at the home.

The inquiry report was released last July following a £23 million investigation into abuse at the Island’s care homes.

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