Minister calls for all social workers to be based in the Island

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IT is ‘not acceptable’ for social workers to be supporting children remotely, the Children’s and Education Minister has said.

Deputy Inna Gardiner made the comments during yesterday’s Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel, following a critical care judgment in the Royal Court highlighting that an employee allocated to work with a vulnerable mother and child spent eight months working remotely and was unavailable to support the family in person.

Deputy Gardiner said she had now made it clear that ‘all our social workers were expected to work on the Island’.

She added: ‘During the pandemic, it was more open for various reasons, but this is not the case now and it is not considered acceptable going forward.’

The minister explained that the only exception was two social workers who were working away from the Island to support two local children who still fell under Jersey’s care.

Panel chair Deputy Catherine Curtis also asked about any employees who may be based in Jersey but work from home.

Deputy Gardiner admitted that some staff may occasionally work remotely for Covid or mental-health reasons, but added that it was not ‘what general practice should be’.

Susan Devlin, group director for Children’s Services, confirmed that staff were ‘expected to be working from the office’.

She added: ‘Some staff may apply to work flexibly, but that’s not eight months off-Island.’

Mrs Devlin, who trained as a social worker, said: ‘Social work is very much a relationship-based profession.

‘For me, there is nothing that beats face-to-face contact. In Covid, of course, we had to adjust working practices, but now we are essentially back in the norm.

‘Best practice is that people see people and they build relationships – that’s how you develop the best chances of support and intervention.’

Mrs Devlin also confirmed that there were ‘standards about levels of contact’, which are reviewed through daily reports and monthly performance meetings.

She added: ‘We’re very clear if there are issues about children not being seen, but we’ve seen a significant improvement in those rates.’

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