THE government has apologised for ‘issues’ in notifying the Jersey Care Commission about emergency temporary arrangements for vulnerable children, after the regulatory body discovered failings in multiple unregistered children’s homes through anonymous tip-offs.
Children’s and Education Minister Inna Gardiner also committed to investigating what had gone wrong so it ‘doesn’t happen again’.
Deputy Gardiner yesterday sent a letter to children’s commissioner Andrea Le Saint, who had sought assurances from the minister in the wake of damning reports published by the JCC about inspections it conducted earlier this year (See full story on page 8).
Ms Le Saint said she was ‘deeply concerned’ that neither herself nor the JCC had been notified of the homes operating, and that the JCC had received an anonymous tip-off which led to the inspections.
The damning inspections found that three children’s homes were not fit for purpose and were operating outside the law, with problems relating to fire safety, storage of medication, the requirement to follow care plans for children and inadequately trained staff working excessive hours.
Chief Minister Kristina Moore has acknowledged the concerns raised by the commission but also said there were ‘rare occasions’ when officials had ‘no other choice’ but to place a child into a care placement which was not registered.
Deputy Gardiner said: ‘The JCC has been clear that notifications about emergency temporary accommodation should be made. These notification arrangements are in place and are understood.
‘It is clear that there have been issues around notification for these types of emergency arrangements, and I apologise for this. I am committed to making sure that the reasons for this are clearly investigated, understood and that this doesn’t happen again.’
Ms Le Saint also raised concerns over ‘unhelpful’ and ‘obstructive’ behaviour from senior members of social care staff, but Deputy Gardiner stressed that such claims should be qualified with ‘evidence’.
‘As I confirmed in my letter to the children’s commissioner, at no point have staff blocked or obstructed access to children in my care. Staff are required to provide a level of comfort and protection to children who are looked after. If there is evidence of obstruction taking place, this should be brought forward so that we can investigate it fully,’ Deputy Gardiner said.
The JEP also sought comment from the Law Officers’ Department about whether the breaches met the threshold for prosecution, but was told that the department was not able to comment on individual cases.