Secure unit for children criticised in Jersey Care Commission report

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ASSAULTS on staff and incidents of self-harm by residents at the Island’s secure unit for young people were not properly reported, a critical review by the Jersey Care Commission has found.

Greenfields is operated by the Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department and provides secure accommodation for up to four residents aged ten to 17 who may be on remand or the subject of secure-accommodation orders made by the Royal Court.

Incidents of self-harm by residents and assaults on staff were mentioned to the care commission’s regulation officer. However, the report says that they were not officially logged with the commission, in breach of regulatory requirements.

Children’s commissioner Deborah McMillan said it was ‘disheartening’ to see many of the issues raised four years ago by the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry resurface in a new report into the Island’s secure home at Greenfields.

Mrs McMillan spoke out after the publication of the commission’s report, which highlights staffing problems, regulatory breaches including not reporting incidents and a ‘stark’ environment at the home, as well as a lack of access to education for residents.

Children’s and Education Minister Scott Wickenden welcomed the report and said that the government would be open and transparent about the challenges of keeping staff and children safe, with a detailed improvement plan being implemented.

The JCC’s inspection of Greenfields was carried out across three unannounced visits to the home in St Saviour during November.

Staffing levels are described as ‘a significant concern’ in the report, with rotas indicating that staff numbers were consistently below the ratio of two staff per child outlined in the operating model for the facility.

The inspectors cite feedback from staff members saying they were regularly required to work excessive hours and that ‘excessive amounts of stress’ were having an impact on their wellbeing.

Following the initial inspection on 5 November, an improvement notice regarding staffing was issued to the director-general of the Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department four days later.

Describing the environment at Greenfields as ‘stark and not homely’, the report calls for management to provide a plan for changes and a timeline for improvement. Heavy-duty steel doors to bedrooms, beds fixed to floors and lengthy delays in mending broken windows – due to the need to source replacements from a UK manufacturer – are mentioned as contributory factors to the impression formed by the JCC.

‘Significant challenges’ are noted in the report regarding the need to provide access to education, with teachers who were due to attend the home often unable to do so as a result of staffing issues in their respective schools.

Mrs McMillan said: ‘This is exactly why the Island needs a regulator to highlight these critical issues, and it is imperative that the government both listens to and acts upon these findings.

‘It is disheartening, though, to see that so many of the issues that have been raised this week track all the way back to the findings of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry.

‘I am sure that I will not be alone in expecting the government to now make meaningful, material changes at Greenfields as a result of the Care Commission’s work.’

Becky Sherrington, who took up the role of chief inspector for the Jersey Care Commission at the start of 2022, said that greater clarity was needed about the exact purpose of the home.

‘The visit demonstrates a number of standards that are not being met and challenges that need to be worked on [by the department] in order to achieve improvement,’ she said.

Mrs Sherrington added that the commission would work with management, education officials and the children’s commissioner to address the areas of concern.

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