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Children’s watchdog ‘needs more teeth’

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A WATCHDOG set up to safeguard children and vulnerable adults ‘needs more and sharper teeth’ to hold organisations to account, a report has found.

Glenys Johnston, current chairwoman of the Jersey Safeguarding Partnership Board, is retiring next year

The review of Jersey’s Safeguarding Partnership Board found that its development had been ‘a positive advance for Jersey’ and had resulted in ‘significant improvements’ in safeguarding arrangements across several areas, such as within schools and sport.

However, the fact that there is currently no statutory duty for organisations to co-operate was flagged up in the report as ‘a gap that needs to be addressed’, as it would ‘remove the inherent risks of relying on goodwill’ for changes to be implemented and would enable the SPB to be more ‘effective’.

The report by Contact Consulting has now recommended that the new States Assembly makes introducing a legislative framework for safeguarding in the Island a ‘priority’ or ‘at the very least’ introduce a duty for organisations to co-operate.

‘Holding organisations to account can be challenging but the SPB needs to be able to do this and should be empowered to do so,’ the report says.

‘Colloquially put, it needs more and sharper teeth.’

The review – which was undertaken to mark the SPB’s five years of operation – was carried out to ensure that the board was working effectively to protect and promote the safety, welfare and wellbeing of Island children and vulnerable adults.

The report highlights a concern that similar issues – which it describes as a ‘gap to practice’ – such as a lack of communication, appear to arise from serious-case reviews, with similar recommendations.

‘It is our conclusion that the “gap to practice” remains too big in Jersey and this is an issue for all agencies on the board,’ the report says.

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Many members of the SPB hold senior management roles within their organisations and the reviewers were told that this seniority enabled more effective decision-making because they had sufficient authority to act.

‘However, there is a sense that full use of this seniority is not always made in seeking to address some of the “wicked” issues that affect the safety of Jersey residents,’ the report says.

According to the report, some SPB members do not make verbal contributions during meetings, as they do not wish to be seen as being critical of another organisation or individual.

Meanwhile, the report recommends that the board remains independently chaired and says that a process for the recruitment of a new independent chairperson to replace current chairwoman Glenys Johnston, who is retiring next year, be put in place as soon as possible ‘to ensure a smooth transition’.

Other recommendations made within the report include that the SPB receives further investment to enable it to provide advice and guidance to organisations and the public and that the number on the board is reduced so meetings are more ‘effective’.

Krysta Eaves

By Krysta Eaves
author

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