There is currently no alternative provider ready to step in when a charity-run premises that helps dozens children of separated families maintain a relationship with both parents closes at the end of next month, the Education Minister has confirmed.
Milli’s Separated Family Centre has confirmed it will close its child contact centre permanently on June 25.
The charity initially announced the closure of the service in January, claiming that regulations introduced within the past two years had redefined "contact" in a way that made it "impossible for us to do any work".
It also argued that the regulations had disrupted the separation and independence it needed to operate and effectively turned it into a government service, but the Jersey Care Commission maintained that the new standards were "achievable and appropriate".
Founder Denise Carroll later revealed the family centre would be registering and trialling the standards following conversations with the JCC.
However, she has now confirmed the child contact provision will close on June 25.
She stressed that they had tried to continue operating under the new standards, but claimed the regulation had resulted in volunteers "dropping like flies" – with no new volunteers coming forward to replace them.
She said this was largely due to additional note taking and unnecessary "tick box" exercises that had placed extra pressure on the day-to-day operation of the service.
"It's heartbreaking all round," she continued. "The children were always the number one priority."
She added that there would be no further attempts to continue the service under the new standards.
"The government has got to step up and do something quickly. I would urge States Members to come and have a look at the facility to understand the service that they are going to lose."
Children’s and Education Minister Inna Gardiner said: "It is sad to hear that Milli’s Separated Family Centre, which does such important work, independent of government, will be closing their child contact centre. Officers in my department have been working with this independent organisation since February to try to find a solution. However, this has not been possible."
Pictured: Children’s and Education Minister Inna Gardiner said she hoped "an alternative provider can be found" and that the Government was still exploring "potential options to meet the service need".
She continued: "I am aware of the valuable service the contact centre provides to families and the importance these families place on the independence of the service from government.
"I do hope an alternative provider can be found, if possible, to continue this specialist work. We are continuing to explore potential options to meet the service need."
The regulation and the Jersey Care Commission fall under the remit of Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf.
Pictured: Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said he "cannot comment on the specifics of the Milli’s situation".
He said: "In April 2022, the States Assembly unanimously approved legislation to regulate child contact centres, alongside nine further categories of children’s social care and mental health services. Care services need to be regulated to help keep people safe and to ensure they receive good quality care that meets their needs."
He added: "I cannot comment on the specifics of the Milli’s situation. Generally speaking, as contact centres provide services to children who are in a position of real vulnerability, we recognise the importance of providing those children, their parents and Islanders with assurances that these services are safe and meet the needs of care receivers.
"This is why the States Assembly decided that Jersey’s child contact centres should be regulated by the independent Jersey Care Commission, and it is why the government continues to support this policy."
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