Last week, the JEP published multiple accounts of alleged failings within the Children’s Service from both staff and service users, including a claimed ‘culture of fear’ among workers afraid to report problems, which included the alleged mismanagement of the case of a physically abused child.
Today, lawyer Alan Collins says the reporting is serious enough to warrant an urgent investigation.
He said: ‘It’s tragic. I’ve been following the stories you’ve written. It is a ridiculous situation. Jersey is in the unique position of having this excellent and thorough [care inquiry] report which signposts the direction for child protection and here we are, one year on, with the JEP publishing these awful stories.
‘The angst and anguish these people are suffering begs the question of whether or not we are really learning the lessons from this report.’
When Frances Oldham QC, who chaired the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, presented the panel’s final report into Jersey’s care system last July, she suggested they return two years later – in the summer of 2019 – to assess progress.
At the time she said: ‘It is our view that a mechanism should be established to monitor and verify the implementation of the recommendations. A transparent way of doing this, and one that we recommend, is that the panel returns to the Island in two years, to hear from those providing the services and those receiving them. We envisage that this would be undertaken in a public forum and the panel would report within a very short timescale after hearing from key participants.’
Mr Collins said that a two-year wait would be too long.
‘If there are all these problems then the inquiry panel should be invited back this year to reconvene in Jersey to question those in charge,’ he said.
‘Its purpose should be to throw some light on this and to ask what is going on. I’m just shocked because it seemed as though so much progress was being made in the wake of the report last summer and now we’re here.
‘It’s great that they’re making improvements but why is it that Gary at the JEP is being inundated by these stories.’
Mr Collins’ intervention comes after the publication of an improvement plan for Children’s Services and a move by Mark Rogers, the new director-general for Children, Young People, Education and Skills, to encourage staff to contact either their managers or him directly to report problems, without fear of repercussions.
Mr Collins said: ‘You can have improvement plans and progress plans but they’re not worth the paper they’re written on if people at the sharp end are at risk of being let down.
‘Jersey has excellent people but there is still a revolving-door syndrome when it comes to the workforce. You don’t want that in Children’s Services. They still have retention and recruitment issues.
‘That should not be happening. Jersey should be pulling out all the stops to recruit the best and keep the best. If that means working closely with agencies and authorities in the UK, then so be it.’
Survivors of child sexual abuse remain in regular contact with the lawyer. He said their reaction to this latest series of revelations should be at the front of the authorities’ minds.
‘They will feel let down because one of the prime motives for coming forward was to ensure what they experienced in care is not visited on future generations,’ he said.
‘You’ve had the inquiry. You’ve had an election. What’s the plan from the new Chief Minister and his colleagues for the implementation of the report? They have some tough questions to answer.’
A States spokeswoman said: ‘When the Care Inquiry panel returns is a matter for its chairwoman, Frances Oldham QC, to determine and she has already indicated that this will be next summer.
‘For our part, we have just published an updated plan and are focusing all our time and attention on delivering the already publicised much-needed improvements to services for children, young people and their families.’