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Childcare system fix: ‘Barriers to getting on with it are gone’

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THE government can have ‘no more excuses’ if they fail to deliver quick improvements to Children’s Services, the Children’s Commissioner has said.

Deborah McMillan

An Ofsted inspection of children’s social work in the Island has once again criticised the pace of change and found there is ‘still a long way to go’ before children and care leavers are adequately supported.

Children’s Commissioner Deborah McMillan said it was ‘frustrating’ that multiple reports had delivered the same findings over the past two years.

Since the 2017 Independent Jersey Care Inquiry report unveiled a catalogue of failings in the Island’s care system, several reports – including a ‘two years on’ follow-up from the inquiry panel – have criticised the pace of change.

And while there has been regular acknowledgement of improvements and the increased political will to drive an overhaul of Children’s Services, Mrs McMillan said that many of the concerns had not been properly addressed.

She said: ‘Many times in the last two years I have spoken about my concerns about pace. For children, urgent means urgent.

‘I am pleased to see that for the first time in years we have permanent leadership. The Government Plan has identified funding and there have been some really good improvements.

‘But, two years on from the care inquiry, we are still talking about high turnover of social workers and a lack of legislation to support the role of the corporate parent.’

The Ofsted report, released yesterday, found that Children’s Services remained ‘fragile’, with turnover in the workforce remaining ‘much too high’. It added that children, as a result, received fractured support.

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Mrs McMillan said appointments to senior social work positions should now allow for an ‘acceleration’ of change.

‘Having interim heads of service is bound to impact the pace of change,’ she said. ‘It is now the time to get on with it.

‘All of the excuses put up for why change has not happened have now been sorted. There are no more excuses.

‘What we need now is rapid transformation and if that doesn’t happen, we will be looking really closely at what more needs to be done using the Commissioner’s statutory powers.

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‘I don’t want to be having this conversation in a year’s time. The barriers to getting on with it are gone.’

Ofsted, who were invited to review care provision in the Island by the Jersey Care Commission, also found that services for care leavers remained ‘insufficient’.

Mrs McMillan added that this was a ‘significant concern’ and that there was a danger that care leavers were not receiving adequate protection of their human rights under the United Nations Convention, which Jersey’s government has signed.

A package of £20 million a year to fund changes to Children’s Services and care provision was agreed earlier this week as part of the Government Plan.

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