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Children’s Commissioner to be appointed

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INTERVIEWS to appoint a Children’s Commissioner are due to take place next week after the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry recommended the role should be introduced.

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At a Care of Children in Jersey Review Scrutiny Panel hearing, Chief Minister Ian Gorst said he hoped that someone would be appointed by the end of the month and has reviewed the roles of a number of commissioners in the UK in order to assist the Island’s new commissioner.

The role of the commissioner will be to protect the rights of children – a role that has previously been rejected by the States Assembly.

Senator Gorst said: ‘We were wrong when we previously said we did not have the funding for such a role and I admit that and now we have to put things right.’

The Scrutiny Panel was formed to review the actions of the Council of Ministers in response to the recommendations of the inquiry, which were published in July.

The panel, which is chaired by Deputy Sam Mézec, aims to ensure that the eight core recommendations of the inquiry are implemented correctly. Deputy Jackie Hilton, Senator Sarah Ferguson and Deputy Tracey Vallois also sit on the panel.

Tom Walker, the chief officer for Community and Constitutional Affairs, said there had been discussions between the department and the States of Guernsey about whether the new commissioner will cover both islands.

Funding of £100,000 has been allocated annually for the role of the commissioner, which will be a full-time position.

Senator Gorst said: ‘The commissioner will have flexibility and be able to make suggestions if they think there are some things lacking in the job description.

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‘There will be meetings with young people the day before we interview the candidates and they will give their feedback to the panel.’

During the hearing, Deputy Vallois raised concerns and said: ‘I think it is very sad that we had to spend £23 million on a report to get States members to wake up.’

Senator Gorst said he was dedicated to making sure the same mistakes, brought to light in the inquiry, do not happen again.

He said: ‘I don’t think people have fully woken up yet. It’s hard for a lot of people to accept that these things did happen.

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‘We should hold our hands up and say these things should not have happened and we will now dedicate ourselves to making sure they don’t happen again in the future.

‘I’ve heard politicians blame civil servants and vice versa and I am sick and tired of it. We need to stop blaming each other.’

He added: ‘I am committed to making sure the recommendations of the inquiry are put into place. What we allowed in the community was an absolute scandal and we need to put a stop to it because it’s uncomfortable.

‘We are going to see some quite radical changes and we need to reset the dial on how we do government and how we work with children.’

Senator Gorst is due to meet with the Children’s Commissioner for England and Wales next week.

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