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Nearly all children sent to Greenfields were in Minister’s care

Nearly all children sent to Greenfields were in Minister’s care

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Nearly all children sent to Greenfields were in Minister’s care

Tuesday 18 January 2022


All but one of the children and young people sent to Greenfields over the last five years were already in the care of the Children’s Minister - a statistic described as “shocking” by the Children's Commissioner.

Andrea Le Saint, a Senior Practitioner within the Office of the Children's Commissioner, told the Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel yesterday that the children's secure unit has gone from being relatively empty in previous years to recently being “consistently full”.

The Panel, which is reviewing the Government’s response to the pandemic and its impact on children, heard that there has been an increase in secure accommodation orders which, as Ms Le Saint explained, are generally broad.

She added that children were being sent to Greenfields for mental health issues, to have a 'secure' place to live, while they are awaiting sentencing by Youth Court, and as punishment for committing a crime.

“All but one of those children who have been placed in Greenfields in the last five years have already been in the care of the Minister,” she added. 

“When we say to a child, ‘You can’t stay with your family because the care provided is not good enough for you to thrive and grow, so we are going to place you in the care of the Minister and then we are going to place you in Greenfields because the care of the Minister isn’t acceptable either’, I think that’s deeply, deeply concerning.”

children family play

Pictured: Deborah McMillan said the Government should focus on "repairing families" rather than removing children from their parents.

It comes at a time when the level of care provided at Greenfields is under scrutiny.

Last November, the Care Commission - a body responsible for assessing how well care providers look after residents and users of their services - served an Improvement Notice to the Director General of the Department for Children, Young People, Education and Skills (CYPES) in relation to Greenfields.

It followed a series of inspections earlier in the year and identified eight areas for improvement. The Commission noted how staffing levels were a “significant concern” with staff having reported they felt under “excessive amounts of stress” and so tired it was having an adverse impact on their wellbeing.

The Commission also said it hadn’t received notice of incidents of self-harm and assaults on staff at Greenfields despite this being a regulatory requirement.

Other areas for improvement included education provision, which has experienced “significant challenges”, and the home environment, described as “stark and not homely."

Deborah McMillan, the Children’s Commissioner, commented: “It’s actually a shocking statistic and a parent has said that to us, ‘My child was taken away from me because I couldn’t care for them and now the Minister can’t care for them and so they are locked up’.”

She called for the island’s attitude towards children and young people “who are in need of care, protection and support” to change and for an end to the “culture of removal from families rather than repairing families”.

Deborah McMillan @OCCJersey

Pictured: Deborah McMillan, the Children’s Commissioner.

“We need to make sure that we give families all of the support that they need so that we don’t have to remove those children in the first place - but if we do have to remove those children that it should be for a short period of time so that they can go back to where they belong,” she said.

“But then ultimately, if it’s absolutely necessary and it’s impossible for that child to go back, then they should be given the very best care that they can. 

“And we are not talking about a lot of children in Jersey, we are talking about 60 to 70 children a year that this Government is their 'parent' and right now they are failing those children.”

Mrs McMillan said the issue had already been brought forward several years ago when the Care Inquiry concluded. 

She said “rapid support” was needed for the island’s children’s services so that they can make the necessary changes.

Referring to the issue of recruitment of social workers, she said a number were recruited and ended up not taking up the post because of “the cost of living, cost of housing, choice of schools for their children” - all of which she said could be easily addressed.

Broad Street Government building

Pictured: The Children's Commissioner said the Government was failing the 60 to 70 children it is a parent for.

She told the Panel that she was concerned not all Ministers were aware of the issues in Children’s Services.

She said that when she “invited herself” to last month's Council of Ministers meeting to share her concerns about children growing up in care, particularly Greenfields, some of the Ministers said they “just weren’t aware of this”.

“Putting children first is a key priority in this Government’s plan,” the Children’s Commissioner said. “I would say that means putting children’s rights first but surely in the aftermath of the Care Inquiry, the Government, no matter what other pressure they face, whether there’s a pandemic or not, they should be totally forensically scrutinising those children who are the most vulnerable, and they are our children growing up in care and needing other support.

“So, if they are telling me, ‘We don’t know what’s going on’, that’s a problem, to me that’s a failing.”

The Children’s Commissioner noted how, despite the pandemic having caused several families to struggle, the number of children growing up in care has reduced considerably over the last two years. 

Before the pandemic, there were 83 children in care, a number which dropped to 76 in 2020 and 68 in 2021.

However, she said that the case load for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) had risen “massively”, whilst the level of children self-reporting that their mental health was really poor was about 40%. 

Earlier in the hearing, Mrs McMillan noted how in September 2021, Children’s Services had said they did not have “sufficient on-island care settings for children in the care of the Minister”.

“That’s meant they had to establish care settings outside of the regulation and they placed children in children’s home outside of their statement of purpose,” Mrs McMillan added.

However, the Government refused to use Hope House, a facility set up by drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity, Silkworth in the former Brig-Y-Don children’s home to provide a four-week therapeutic residential programme for young people experiencing emotional distress or struggling with addiction, mental health issues and eating disorders, because it was registered to deliver "a specific 28-day programme".

2Hope_House_Silkworth.jpg

Pictured: Hope House closed down in December after the Government refused to refer children there.

Since then, the charity has been forced to close Hope House.

Its CEO, Jason Wyse, explained in a statement: “Without the same buy in and support of Government and in particular, CYPES, that was originally given to us before we proceeded with this project, it has become impossible for us to continue." 

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Comments

Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

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Posted by Robert Gabriel on
Many of the children and young people who end up in the care system end up there for a variety of reasons which aren’t all down to mental illness or abuse and are far too complex to detail in one post. However, the idea that children are put into care as a convenient way of dealing with them is not only incorrect but also very unhelpful.

Whilst it may be unpalatable, some children and young people only end up in secure accommodation because the risk of them physically harming others leaves no alternative. I’m not personally aware of any agency who has contact or a responsibility towards children or young people who wants to see them being incarcerated in a secure unit. However, regrettably, it is sometimes necessary and none of us should be overly critical of those who must make that decision.
Posted by Lesley Ricketts on
Children in care have suffered significant early childhood trauma and this has not been dealt with by our Government nor previous Governments. A therapeutic centre or, at the very least, specifically targeted therapy from professionals who understand the damage that developmental trauma inflicts on the mental well being of children is long overdue. It is a disgrace that even now children in the care of the minister are not receiving the help they need
And will very probably follow the same path as those teenagers who have been locked up in Greenfields over the last five years and on and on it goes….
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