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Island still fails children in care, new report finds

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THE Island is still failing children in its care, Ofsted investigators have found – one year since the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry made similar findings.

Children’s Commissioner for Jersey Deborah McMillan

Senior government officials have admitted that progress on the eight core recommendations made by the inquiry panel has not been delivered quickly or deeply enough.

A preliminary report from Ofsted – which has not yet been made public – has found that while no children are at risk of immediate harm they are still being failed. A full report and recommendations arising from the Ofsted review is due to be published by the Jersey Care Commission in September.

Children’s Commissioner Deborah McMillan said that issues surrounding the recruitment and retention of social workers meant the Island was still failing vulnerable children.

The damning inquiry report uncovered a catalogue of failures in States governance that had left vulnerable children exposed to abuse for decades and also concluded that children could still be at risk.

A 41-point action plan was drawn up to ensure the full implementation of the inquiry’s recommendation, with 11 of those actions having so far been completed.

States chief executive Charlie Parker, who was handed responsibility for Children’s Services in February, admitted that the improvements had been ‘too slow’ and that the States was ‘still failing to provide the consistent quality of care, protection and support to children and young people in the Island’.

Alan Collins, a leading UK solicitor who has represented members of the Jersey Care Leavers Association, has challenged the newly-formed Council of Ministers to make sure the inquiry report is not ‘left on the backburner’.

He said he was concerned that the new ministerial team could undo the progress made since last year if they did make the inquiry and its recommendations one of its core priorities.

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One of the recommendations that has been fulfilled so far has been the creation of the post of Children’s Commissioner.

Mrs McMillan, who took up the post earlier this year, said: ‘There has been some tangible nuggets of progress but we cannot be complacent – for our children that progress still isn’t quick enough.

‘One of the biggest issues children in care have talked to me about is the turnover of social workers. Some are on their tenth, 11th, 12th social worker and are saying they won’t invest in a relationship with their social worker because they know they are going to go.’

She added that the eight core recommendations were important but were a ‘building block’ and that the Island needed to be ‘constantly asking, constantly listening and constantly changing’ to ensure that meaningful change was long-lasting.

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Senator Sam Mézec, who is being lined up to become the Island’s first Children’s Minister when the post is created later this year, said he will make sure the Council of Ministers does not forget its commitment to supporting and improving the lives of Jersey’s young people.

‘The creation of a Children’s Minister post wasn’t specifically a care inquiry recommendation but I think it fits into the broader aim of changing the culture in the States to one where every employee of the States sees themselves as the corporate parent and has the welfare of children at the forefront of their mind.

‘Some of the recommendations are very difficult and will take a while. There is no overnight fix.

‘I have a seat around the ministerial table as Housing Minister and so I have been using that to make sure the case for the care inquiry recommendations is being heard.’

Meanwhile, the States police have today set out their own ten-point pledge to the Island’s young people, including to reduce the number of children who are victims of crime and to make it easier for young people to raise concerns about policing.

Deputy Chief Officer Julian Blazeby said: ‘It’s really important that we as police officers build positive relationships and engage with children and young people. We recognise the important role we can play in ensuring the Island’s young people grow up in a safe environment that helps them flourish.

‘We will work hard to achieve these ten pledges over the next couple of years, which we hope will have a positive impact on as many children and young people as possible.’

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