Our children deserve so much better than having just as many ministers as they do social workers

I HAVE been watching with incredulity and dismay the tragedy that has become the position of Children’s and Education Minister.

Cheyenne O'Connor. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31286665)
Cheyenne O'Connor. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31286665)

First Senator Tracey Vallois resigned as Education Minister because she believed she was being sidelined and not listened to by her colleagues in the Council of Ministers.

Secondly, Senator Sam Mézec stood down as he had no confidence in the Chief Minister and was unhappy that he, too, was not being listened to and was being walked over by civil servants.

Then came along Deputy Jeremy Maçon, who was elected unopposed by the States to the new position of Children’s and Education Minister.

In his opening speech he managed to keep the survivors of child abuse divided by picking a side over whether the proposed memorial should go ahead or not.

In one speech he managed not only to fuel anger and resentment and deepen the divide already created by proposals to install a piece of art in memory of child abuse victims, but he alienated a significant number of survivors.

It went downhill from there.

Deputy Maçon was arrested by the police on 24 March this year for reasons that have still not been made public and he remains on police bail.

As one would expect, the rumour mill has run riot as to why the Deputy was arrested.

Time will tell whether the Deputy has committed any criminal offence. But the fact that the politician was posting sexually suggestive photographs on social media – long before he was elected as a minister – perhaps indicates he wasn’t the best man for the job.

Following two resignations in a short space of time, Chief Minister John Le Fondré (who put the Deputy forward as his preferred choice) really needed a safe pair of hands in this role.

Anyone who had cast an eye over the pictures, which had been circulating on social media for weeks before the Deputy was appointed, would have known that he was as far from a risk-free choice as you could possibly get.

Fortunately, the Deputy did the decent thing and resigned (eventually) – and now we find ourselves with Deputy Scott Wickenden holding this vitally important role.

During the election, three candidates threw their hats in the ring. Two of them, Deputies Louise Doublet and Rob Ward, were teachers in their previous careers.

These two would know how the school/education system works, by virtue of their previous profession, and by having children themselves, would have had a good idea of children’s needs, not just in the school but in the wider world. Then there was Deputy Wickenden.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who was the best/worst person for the job and Deputy Wickenden falls under the latter category. But he is ‘one of the boys’ and therefore the Chief Minister’s choice. Because he was the Chief Minister’s choice he got the job over and above those who were demonstrably more qualified than him.

Have we learnt nothing from the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry? That was a rhetorical question, by the way. It was ‘The Old Boys Network’ that allowed the abuse of children to happen for decades.

It was promoting people way above their abilities to positions they had very little or no knowledge of that led to our children to be failed for so long.

The government is saying one thing – ‘putting children first’ – and doing another – putting jobs for the boys first.

Our children deserve so much better than having just as many ministers (there have been four in three years) as they do social workers.

And as for the man himself, is he really up to the job? On 30 June, another columnist for this newspaper stated that various WhatsApp messages on the night-time social activities of Deputy Wickenden had been doing the rounds. The writer also suggested that some senior civil servants in the Children and Education Department have raised concerns over the Deputy missing meetings or perhaps not having his head in the game.

If true, how long before the alleged WhatsApp messages make their way into the public domain?

Or his head never actually gets into the game? And we end up having to look for another Children’s and Education Minister.

Electing Deputy Wickenden as Children’s Minister because he is a ‘yes man’ rather than electing the person who is most qualified for the job tells us two things: 1. The Jersey Way (recommendation seven of the care inquiry’s report) is alive and (un)well and 2. The many issues affecting this vitally important area of Island life will never be resolved for as long as the Old Boys Network look after their own, instead of our children.

Most Read

Top Stories

More From The Jersey Evening Post

UK & International News