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Foster caring scheme to reduce child detention

Foster caring scheme to reduce child detention

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Foster caring scheme to reduce child detention


Children detained through the youth justice system will be placed with full-time foster carers as part of new efforts to avoid young people being held in cells, or other 'secure' facilities, it has emerged.

Launching a campaign to recruit full-time, paid ‘intensive foster carers’ this week, the government revealed that the scheme will also include bail and remand care.

The new family-based placement service aims to provide a direct alternative to them being placed in residential homes or specialist facilities off-island.

The service is primarily targeted at children with more challenging care needs, but the government has now confirmed that intensive fosterers will also look after children made subject to a custody order by the Youth Court, providing an alternative to Greenfields.

Asked by Express about this aspect of the scheme, a Government spokesperson explained that intensive foster carers would effectively be 'on call' to look after young people on bail or remand.

They said: "This would effectively mean that bail and remand carers should be available in an emergency. The intensive fostering placement would only be used for more than one child if they are siblings. Bail and remand carers would generally only have one child in their care."

They added that "This should be used as a direct alternative to children spending a prolonged time at the police station (we don’t advocate for children to be kept in police cells) and also an alternative to Greenfields."

It comes after the facility, which provides accommodation for children either detained through the youth justice system or in need of placements for their own welfare, was criticised in a £14,400 report by an independent consultant published in October last year.

They found fault with the process of 'checking in' young people, which included being measured and weighed and being encouraged to take a shower, and described the rooms as unwelcoming and inappropriate for a child.

"Each room has a standard metal ‘cell’ door... These are heavy and have to be slammed shut. When standing inside and having the door closed it is intimidating. A child or young person could be concerned and fearful in that environment."

The report also noted that there has been a "change in the ethos of youth justice" in recent years, which had led to a sharp decline in the number of young people placed in the unit at any one time.

"As a result, the norm is that only one young person is detained under the criminal justice system at any one time, and the unit is often empty," the report stated, noting this could lead to feelings of isolation.

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Pictured: A screenshot of the report showing accommodation at Greenfields, which the intensive foster care scheme will go some way to replacing with a more welcoming alternative.

Replying to calls from a Scrutiny Panel, the Children's Minister, Senator Sam Mézec this month confirmed his intentions to redevelop the 'secure estate'.

“It is accepted that... Greenfields needs to reduce and that there is a requirement to carry out some capital improvement in the short term while developing a new specification for the Greenfields ‘campus’ which will include consideration of what other services should operate from there," he wrote in a report.

“There will also be a development of a small therapeutic unit to provide specialist support on-island as an alternative to off-island care which will require capital spend. As part of the regulatory framework there are standards set out relating to establishments and each of the exiting units will require investment to meet these standards. Different units will require different work carried out and investment accordingly.” 

Senator Mézec noted that the measures are part of wider "transformation programme" for children needing care, which includes the intensive fostering scheme.

The campaign for the scheme has launched this week, and islanders interested in getting involved are now being invited to apply for the paid role.

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Pictured: The Children's Minister, Senator Sam Mézec. 

Prospective carers will undergo an assessment and will undertake comprehensive training so they are equipped to support the emotional, psychological and social development of the child in their care. They will also have regular contact with and support from a dedicated social worker and access to specialist support groups. 

Successful applicants won’t be able to take on any other employment for the duration of their role and will therefore be paid £40,000 a year as well as receiving maintenance allowances, travel expenses and any necessary equipment.

They will also get 28 days’ holiday and will be expected to support other carers by providing respite and short-break care.

The Government have also confirmed to Express that they are aiming to recruit eight intensive foster carers over the next three years - three carers in 2020, an addition one in 2021 and an additional four in 2022.

Commenting on the scheme, Children’s Minister Senator Sam Mézec said: “Current foster carers in Jersey provide invaluable care to our looked-after children. But we have been unable to provide enough foster homes for some children and young people with exceptionally complex needs who require therapeutic care off-island, which can cost more than £200,000 a year for each child. We would like people from all cultural backgrounds and ethnicities to consider a career as an intensive foster carer, so that children and young people can be matched with carers who they can identify with."

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Pictured: The scheme aims to give children and young people with more complex needs a "nurturing family environment".

He continued: “Intensive fostering is a specialist fostering service for children and young people who need to live in a nurturing family environment with foster carers who have the knowledge, understanding and skills to care for and support them until they can return home, live independently or access other family settings provided by Children’s Services.” 

Islanders wishing to register their interest can do so here.

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