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"We have a number of children in the UK being held unlawfully"

Wednesday 16 March 2022

"We have a number of children in the UK being held unlawfully"

Wednesday 16 March 2022


Jersey's Children’s Law is soon to change following a challenge over whether it was legal to send local children to residential care facilities in the UK.

During a recent case, local lawyers argued that Jersey children currently living in UK care facilities are potentially there unlawfully due to a problem in the local law.

While acting on behalf of a child in a recent case, Advocate Darry Robinson and Solicitor Clare Woodhouse asked for clarity from the Court of Appeal regarding the definition of “person” as it relates to the Jersey law that currently requires all 'off island' placements to be with “a parent, guardian or other suitable person."

As that definition doesn’t include residential care homes, Solicitor Woodhouse argued that Jersey children living in residential care facilities abroad are having their placements put at risk because they aren’t there lawfully. 

Following their appeal, the Minister for Children and Education, Deputy Scott Wickenden, filed a proposition to update the Children’s Law to allow for Jersey children to be placed in therapeutic units in the UK.

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Pictured: The Minister for Children and Education, Deputy Scott Wickenden.

Deputy Wickenden’s proposition was adopted by the States on the 2 March and it is now expected to be registered by the Royal Court by early May - no date has been set yet. 

Commenting on the situation, Advocate Robinson said: “As things stand, until the law is actually passed, we have a number of children in the UK being held unlawfully in placements."

Solicitor Woodhouse said: “While it is a shame that, due to a lack of resources on island, some of Jersey’s most vulnerable children need to be placed abroad, it is comforting to know that they will now [following the expected registration by the Royal Court] be placed abroad lawfully, allowing them to access the support and resources they require”.

“The change will be retrospective and so will not affect any children currently residing off island, wherever they are currently placed”, she added. 

Why are Jersey children placed in off-island facilities? 

When asked why Jersey children are sometimes placed in UK facilities, Advocate Robinson, who specialises in children’s care proceedings, explained that Children’s Services have been placing Jersey children in therapeutic units in the UK for “many years” because we don’t have the facilities in the island.

darry robinson

Pictured: Advocate Darry Robinson.  

“It’s a real problem because you’ve got Jersey children who identify their lives as being in Jersey who are being placed off island because we don’t have this therapeutic facility”, he said.

He added that there are “many reasons” children might need these therapeutic placements. 

“7 years ago, maybe 8 years ago, I was dealing with children who were extremely, badly harmed and they were suffering all aspects of neglect and sexual harm and physical abuse, so these types of placements will suit the needs of the child”, he said. 

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Pictured: Clare Woodhouse, an English Solicitor at Benest and Syrvret.

While up-to-date figures aren’t publicly available, both Solicitor Woodhouse and Advocate Robinson believe Jersey children placed in UK residencies typically range from the ages of 10 years old up to 18 years old. 

Express is waiting for a response from the Government to confirm how many children are currently, unlawfully, placed within UK residential care facilities. 

Creating therapeutic facilities in Jersey

When asked if Jersey should be aiming to create these facilities in the island, Solicitor Woodhouse said: “Absolutely. I think the court believes that too. I think everybody knows there is a need for it but it’s just not happening”.

“I’ve been in Jersey 14 years and as long as I can remember, since I’ve been doing this work, it has been talked about but they just don’t appear to ever get anywhere”, she added.  

While Jersey has a small number of children's homes, none of them are considered therapeutic facilities, which is why children currently have to be sent to the UK if they require that level of support. 

Hope House was a residential facility for children in Jersey which closed down in late 2021, saying that the Government was not adequately supporting it. 

Hope House 2

Pictured: Hope House opened in March 2021 after The Silkworth Charity Group spent £250,000 and 5 years developing the project. It closed in December 2021.

While the support services offered at Hope House focused on early intervention with children rather than long term therapeutic support, like the UK facilities being used, Advocate Robinson acknowledged the gap Hope House's closure left in the local support system for children. 

“Hope House was a particular model for early intervention with children over a limited period of time so had there been early intervention with the use of Hope House that might have avoided the necessity for children to be placed in long term therapeutic placements”, he said. 

Explaining in more detail why these therapeutic placements are so important, Solicitor Woodhouse said: “Therapeutic placements in the UK will have dedicated staff who are trained in dealing with particular issues that the child might have. Additionally, they might normally have education on site so they are not in mainstream school... And they’ll have therapists on site who will meet with them regularly".

"The [UK] unit itself is very much a therapeutic based unit as opposed to the units that we have here [in Jersey] at the moment which don’t have any therapeutic element,” she added. 

READ MORE…

FOCUS: Gov criticised for wasting children's therapy facility

FOCUS:'Hope row' deepens over closure of children's care facility

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