Children’s commissioner: ‘No excuse for lack of progress’

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Deborah McMillan made the comments regarding the Corporate Parenting Board, which provides political oversight on how the Government of Jersey is discharging its corporate parenting duties to looked-after children and care leavers.

On social media, St John Constable Andy Jehan highlighted that the website had no record of the board having met since 2019.

A government spokesperson said that it had met in June and September last year, but that the minutes had yet to be uploaded.

Mrs McMillan said that the pandemic should not be used as justification for a lack of progress.

She said: ‘What I have seen in the past year is that a lot of important boards – such as the Children’s Services Strategic Leadership Board – have not met, and the government will say it is because of Covid and ministerial changes. But you still have officers doing the work, it doesn’t just stop.’

She added that there was ‘no excuse’ for key groups to delay important discussions and that ‘this was also a time when we needed forensic oversight’.

‘The [Strategic Leadership] Board’s job is to oversee and drive forward improvements for our most vulnerable children,’ she said.

In 2018, the government launched an eight-point pledge to ‘put children first’, with the aim of improving the care and upholding the rights of every child in the Island.

Mr Jehan said that ‘actions speak much louder than words’ and that there was a need to demonstrate this objective was still a priority.

He said: ‘Item six in the September [20]19 minutes stated there was a long list of actions – well what has happened to the actions? Have they been prioritised and have the actions been completed? We simply don’t know and in my view that is not acceptable.’

He added: ‘I also understand that the Strategic Leadership Board tasked with driving improvement in children’s social care did not meet from June 2020 until March 2021 – this at a time when more focus should have been put on this area rather than less.’

When asked what could be done to address the needs of children throughout – and after – the pandemic, Mr Jehan said: ‘It should be recognised that some progress has been made, however there is still lots of work to do.

‘In my short time in the Assembly, I have been surprised that there is still a lack of a joined-up approach in some areas. We heard only today about the numbers of youngsters needing support for mental health reasons. We need to understand the causes and address these.’

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