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Abuse survivors need ‘free access to tailored mental-health services’

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MENTAL-HEALTH services for abuse survivors need to be tailored to the individual if Jersey is to respond properly to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, a lawyer representing victims has said.

Alan Collins,partner at Hugh James – Solicitors

UK-based lawyer Alan Collins, who has recently fought for a redress scheme for Les Chênes residents, said that while there were ‘encouraging’ signs that the Island was looking to learn from the mistakes of the past, abuse survivors needed easier access to mental-health services.

Speaking to the inquiry panel, which returned to the Island to review progress made in the two years since its damning report, Mr Collins called for ‘free access’ to specialised treatment which puts the individual first.

He said that abuse survivors were ‘wary’ of government initiatives and held a ‘profound sense of distrust and scepticism’ towards the States.

‘The position post-publication of your report is that the picture is, in general, encouraging because, as I see it, the government and politicians and those concerned in child-protection issues understood what you were saying and seemed to embrace your recommendations,’ he said.

‘We have seen lots of activity, which is all good but when it comes down to the individual survivor we get what I describe as a splintered picture.

‘There is a broad canvass but when it comes down to the individual I find it is a mixed position.’

He added that a number of Islanders who had been failed by the care system found it difficult to access the services they required.

‘There should be some kind of overall body in charge to ensure that good practice is available across Jersey and is available to survivors no matter what kind of abuse they suffered,’ Mr Collins said.

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‘Some survivors talk about accessing psychological services in the Island and when they do, those services seem to be good. I think more generally it is about getting that access, being allowed through the threshold and once there, received the treatment they need.

‘I would say it needs free access to properly funded, highly specialised treatment which is available throughout the course of their lives because their needs and circumstances do change.

‘There is a kernel there that can be nurtured. It will need expert help and guidance from outside Jersey because these are very specialised disciplines. What may be of benefit to one individual may be of no benefit to somebody else.’

Mr Collins added that the cost, the services available and how they can be accessed were three areas that need to be reviewed and improved.

The panel, chaired by Frances Oldham QC, is due to report back on its findings later this summer.

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