It has been a day for publication by Inquiries, with the comprehensive and damning report from the Jersey Care Inquiry and on a somewhat smaller scale a review of safeguarding and dignity at work procedures involving the IICSA.
This Inquiry was tasked with looking at what went wrong with Jersey’s child care systems. It was not in dispute that there were failings and from the outset the States of Jersey are described as “an ineffectual and neglectful substitute parent”. The Inquiry concluded that there was a “worrying history of both inappropriate and ineffectual state intervention and state indifference” which is described as pervading all aspects of children in care from the decision to place a child in care right through their involvement with the care system. All aspects of a child’s care are criticised in the report from the enforced vegetarianism at La Preference through the lack of training, guidance and oversight of family group homes to the lack of priority given to Children’s Services in terms of government time, funding and attention.
The Inquiry summarises its findings as 10 fundamental failings in Jersey’s care system. These are:
- A failure to value children in the care system
- Lack of an adequate legislative framework
- Failure to keep pace with relevant developed world standards
- Failure to plan and deliver services effectively
- Lack of openness and transparency
- Negative impacts of a small island culture and challenges
- Insufficient investment in staff development and training
- Failings in recruitment and retention of staff
- Lack of understanding or fulfilment of corporate parenting responsibilities
- A silo mentality among public sector agencies.
Worryingly the Inquiry finds that the concerns and failings are not only historic and that some aspects of Jersey’s services for children remain not fully fit for purpose. The report concludes with 8 recommendations for change but then is cognisant of recommendations being made but not implemented in other inquiries. The Northern Ireland report and concerns raised about implementation of its recommendations for redress no doubt being noted. The Inquiry therefore suggests that they return in two year’s time to see if the recommendations have been actioned.
The review of safeguarding and dignity at work procedures was commissioned as a result of criticism made of IICSA by the Home Affairs Committee last November in connection with matters relating to the resignation of Ben Emmerson QC as counsel to the Inquiry. The circumstances leading to his resignation have themselves already been the subject of an investigation and report commissioned by Matrix Chambers which concluded that there had been no sexual assault or sexual harassment by Mr Emmerson. That report has not been published and indeed has not been seen by Mark Sutton QC in his review.
Mr Sutton’s remit was to consider the events surrounding Mr Emmerson’s resignation and the Inquiry’s response to it. Given the nature of the work, which the Inquiry is doing in relation to any state or non-state organisation which comes before it, there is a certain irony that it has itself been required to be reviewed. Within the confines of the confidentiality required Mr Sutton’s public statement, which summaries the lengthy report prepared but not published, identifies the history of allegations made and the approach to the same by all of those involved. The statement notes that the IICSA had been confronted with a set of circumstances which presented very formidable challenges, that its response was appropriate and proportionate and no recommendations were made for any changes to its current safeguarding arrangements.
The IICSA will no doubt hope now that it can put the last remnants of the challenging and controversial summer and autumn of 2016 behind it, and progress its core work. As it holds seminars on support for victims and survivors (4 & 5 July), heads to the second preliminary hearings in child migration (10 – 21 July), calls for core participants in its investigation in to the internet (applications due by 28 July with a preliminary hearing on 19 Sept) and continues its extensive promotion of the Truth Project it will no doubt hope that it will be seen to be justifying its cost. Having published the 2016/17 financial report last week its total cost has been £35.5m (plus the costs of the initial non-statutory inquiry). This is lower than the £50m estimate provided for the first 2 years but still a very large sum of money. It is hard to see how in the next couple of years as there are more hearings the annual costs will not increase, but if there is stability around key personnel and processes that will be a major step in the right direction.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner at BLM