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FOCUS: The top risks for the children's department

FOCUS: The top risks for the children's department

Monday 09 August 2021

FOCUS: The top risks for the children's department

Monday 09 August 2021

Children’s homes being at full capacity, children being sent away from the island, and faults with the school dedicated to supporting some of the island's most vulnerable children...

When grilled on the top risks currently facing the Government's Children, Young People, Education and Skills (CYPES) Department, these were among the issues cited by Director General Mark Rogers.

Express explored those concerns, aired in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, in more depth...

Homes at full capacity and staff shortages

According to Mr Rogers, all children's homes in Jersey are "now at capacity" and "the current needs/mix of young people and children, will make it difficult for other children to be placed in the same home without compromising the care of the children."

Meanwhile, the department is also struggling with "ensuring the correct ratio of staff to children and homes."


Pictured: Additional Social Care staff are currently being sought by CYPES.

"If Children's Social Care do not have a sufficient and effective workforce to meet the demand on services then this could result in either a delay in being able to deliver the services needed or poor practice in safeguarding vulnerable children," he said.

The admission reflects findings in a recent report from the Independent Children's Homes Association, which observed that "due to the decreasing numbers of children looked after in the children's homes during 2019 and vacancies were not recruited to."

"However, during the covid-19 pandemic the numbers of children increased, leaving the service short," the report added.

Last month, Express also reported on how £2m had been spent on agencies amid social workers' departures and struggles to recruit more permanent staff.

On how these issues would be addressed, Mr Rogers said that two additional registered managers were being sought by an off-island agency, the budget had been increased in 2021, and that the department are prioritising the development of a new three-bed therapeutic children's home.

He also said they would also be putting in emergency 'pop-up' care settings, but admitted these were "not sustainable" in the long-term due to staffing and regulations. 

In response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Law about these 'pop-up' settings by Express, the Government confirmed that temporary accommodation had been used for fewer than five children overall since the beginning of 2020" and that there remained "fewer than five" temporary lets being used at the present moment.

They said they could not give details on individual placements but said the total rental cost was £27,000, with the total length of stay being 23 weeks and one day.

They refused to disclose the number of staff allocated to each home, "as this would likely result in the identification of individuals", but assured that "all staff that are employed by Children's Social Care... have the relevant qualifications and DBS checks."

 Specialist care

An "increase in the number of children placed in specialist provision including off-island placements" was also among the key risks flagged up by Mr Rogers.

He added that there was also "an increase in the number of children requiring a statutory... response and/or being placed in specialist setting", such as a mental health facility or Greenfields.

But establishing a Children's Strategic Leadership Board among other panels and boards, regular inspections from an independent inspectorate, and an updated recruitment strategy for workers at the homes were among the mitigating measures he said had been put in place.

The issue of specialist and therapeutic care for children has been the topic of much discussion recently, particularly after Express revealed that the Government was no longer referring children for help at Silkworth's Hope House.

Hope House 2

Pictured: Silkworth has criticised the Government for not referring children to their therapeutic home.

The unit, established last year, currently has beds lying empty - a consequence, the charity claims, of the Government "gatekeeping" referrals, possibly because it is planning on setting up its own therapeutic children's home.

Children's Minister Scott Wickenden said that it is not a 'secure home' and therefore, unlike Greenfields, it cannot deal with children subject to 'secure accommodation orders' imposed by the Royal Court.

However, Silkworth has said it doesn't want Hope House to be like a 'secure home', with its CEO saying he doesn't understand why they are no longer referring other children with less severe mental health needs in order to "prevent them slipping into more serious issues."

La Sente

Mr Rogers also listed a number of concerns island's school for children with social, emotional and mental health needs, La Sente.

He broadly outlined these as "concerns around Safeguarding (both staff and pupils), Health and Safety, support staff (caretaker), pupils absconding from both sites, traffic management."

La Sente KS4

Pictured: Mr Rogers said there would be requests for CCTV as part of risk mitigation.

The comment crystallises concerns reported on by Express earlier this year.

One islander whose child attended the facility described the school as a "containment area," while the Children's Commissioner's commented that the exclusion rates at the school were "too high."

Acknowledging media scrutiny of the buildings and therapeutic care, Mr Rogers said that a number of areas of the school were being reviewed, led by a "high-level improvements plan."

Some of these developments include: funding for caretaker support, safeguarding and risk assessments, a "more timely response" and better multi-agency working to address aggressive behaviour, and changes to the front door to improve safe access and egress.

He also said that a "comms and marketing campaign" would be needed to "bring back a positive image to the school."


The other key risk highlighted by Mr Rogers was information security and the infrastructure of CYPES' information system.


Pictured: The department will be improving its management of mobile devices once certificates and enrolment is in place.

He noted that this could "result in unauthorised access to data, inaccurate data or untimely delivery of data, or loss of integrity in the application systems that support the organisation business processes."

To address these information risks, he said the department would improving how it manages its mobile devices once once certificates and enrolment is in place, and improvements would be made to its shared infrastructure and speed.

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