A report released this morning into children’s social work found that improving outcomes for young people is going to be virtually impossible to achieve without significant investment and States support.
The latest damning indictment of children’s services comes 14 months after the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry released its report highlighting decades of abuse and States failures in child protection.
And the States have now been challenged to provide the ‘political and corporate support’ needed to allow social workers to have the right conditions to carry out their work, as well as to formally outline their responsibilities as a ‘corporate parent’ in legislation.
The States have responded by issuing a ‘pledge to Jersey’s children and young people’ which commits those who sign it to helping speed up the pace of change for children and acknowledges the role they can play in supporting vulnerable young Islanders. All Members and public service leaders are being asked to sign the pledge.
And Mark Rogers, the director general for Children, Young People, Education and Skills, revealed that an improvement plan is to be discussed by the Council of Ministers by early autumn.
The report, commissioned by the Jersey Care Commission in partnership with Ofsted, is the first independent inspection of children’s social work services in Jersey. Ofsted inspectors visited the Island in June.
Among the findings were:
*Children’s services have been ‘struggling in isolation’ for many years due to a lack of political and corporate support.
*Social workers and managers are committed to improving outcomes for vulnerable children but have not been given the right conditions to carry out their work.
*Any progress made so far has been ‘in spite of the wider system’.
*Whole-system change is needed so that social workers choose to come to Jersey.
The inspection also found that while no child was at immediate risk of harm, better co-ordinated responses across the services would reduce any potential risk to vulnerable children.
It added that there were ‘green shoots’ in that States chief executive Charlie Parker – who took direct oversight and accountability for Children’s Services from the Health Department in February – had ‘begun to take decisive action to develop corporate services that will support children’s services’ but that progress so far has been too slow.
The commission recommended that the States ensure sufficient investment, that efforts be made within Children’s Services to reduce the turnover of social workers and that senior managers need to introduce an ‘effective system to gather, analyse and review performance’.
Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, said: ‘We have already started to implement a new improvement plan and will now take any necessary further steps to take into account the recommendations for further improvement.
‘Children must be at the heart of everything we do and we must put children first. The Pledge to Children and Young People in Jersey recognises that the care and protection of children is not simply the responsibility of Children’s Services, but requires concerted action across the public service, and the commitment of government ministers and States Members to make the changes that are needed. We are working together to ensure that this Pledge focuses on specific actions and outcomes rather than aspirations.’
Children’s Minister Sam Mézec said that the Island is ‘on the right path’ but is ‘still a long way from where we need to be and we are still failing children and young people’. He added that the new pledge was a ‘demonstration of our strengthened resolve to make the necessary improvements’.
Last year, the inquiry report was released after hearing hundreds of accounts of the way vulnerable children were treated over several decades. The inquiry’s report made a string of recommendations including the appointment of Children’s Commissioner to champion children’s rights. Deborah McMillan was appointed to that role earlier this year.
The Care Commission, which is independent of the Health Department, was set up in 2017 to regulate and inspect health and social care services in Jersey.
The States were due to respond to the report at a press conference this morning.