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Call for 'living memorial' to child abuse victims

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A ‘LIVING memorial’ for people who suffered child abuse in Jersey – such as a research or education centre – has been proposed by a representative of victims, the Chief Minister has said.

Chief Minister Ian Gorst

In its first official response to the damning findings of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, which were published in July, the government announced yesterday that it intended to spend £2.9 million to employ an additional 19 full-time staff to implement the eight core recommendations made by the panel.

The government also published an action plan, and progress update, for the recommendations, which include the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner to ensure that children had a voice. The States response also said it intended to address the negative view of the ‘Jersey Way’ – how the Island is run.

Chief Minister Ian Gorst, who supports all of the inquiry’s recommendations, said that he believed that the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner was one of his most important priorities. A shortlist of candidates has been drawn up for the role.

But he added that among the more difficult recommendations to implement would be tackling the negative perception of the ‘Jersey Way’ and dealing with sensitive legacy issues, such as the possible demolition of Haut de la Garenne – a former care home at the heart of the abuse investigation – and the suggested building of a ‘lasting memorial’ for victims.

Senator Gorst said, however, that the development of a ‘living memorial’ to promote better childcare in the Island appealed to him.

‘I don’t want to drive that particular agenda – I would like it to come from a conversation or consultation. But it has been suggested to me by one of the legal representatives of abuse victims that it should actually be a living memorial,’ he said.

‘So this would be a research or educational centre about best practice in childcare or social work, which might be a very fitting memorial rather than just a slab of rock somewhere.’

The Senator said that there was now a shortlist of five candidates for the role of Children’s Commissioner and that interviews would be held over the next fortnight, with the intention of the successful person being in the post by January 2018.

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‘I think the appointment of the Children’s Commissioner is really important because that will drive legislative changes, reviews of the service and improving standards across the service,’ he said.

He added: ‘What do we do with Haut de la Garenne also continues to be difficult, but we are committing to consulting and asking not only the public, but, importantly, care leavers [about] what they would like to happen to that building.’

And the minister said that addressing the negative perception of the ‘Jersey Way’ was a difficult challenge because the term meant ‘completely different things to different people’.

‘For some people it is a positive thing – it’s about voluntary service, being proud of our traditions, being a close-knit community and supporting each other,’ he said.

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‘For others – lots of whom came before the inquiry panel and suffered abuse – they feel that the Jersey Way is one where nothing happens.

‘You suffer abuse, you make a complaint and then nothing happens, and then you end up in an organisation where you suffer abuse again.’

Actions proposed to resolve the negative perception of the Jersey Way include removing the Bailiff – the Island’s chief judge – as the States speaker and reviewing procedures for making complaints against the States.

A proposition lodged by Senator Gorst to remove the Bailiff from the role is due to be debated on 14 November.

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