The Government has told the Royal Court that a vulnerable teen who has not been to school for two years will have to leave the island for care – one year after cancelling a local placement the night before it was due to start “without explanation”.
The situation came to light during a hearing on 14 September when the Children and Education Minister, Deputy Scott Wickenden, made an application to place the teen outside of the island, which was adjourned.
The Court observed that the child – who suffers from emotional, behavioural and developmental disorders – had been managed for years by “non-intervention”.
His situation was described as "extreme" - he had not attended school for two years and “seldom” left his room, where conditions were “dire”.
The Court also heard there had been “many incidents of violence and threats of violence” from the teen in particular following visits of social workers, some of which had led neighbours to call the police.
Two years ago, his family explained that they felt unable to cope. Amid this, the Court heard that Children’s Services had called off visits because of the “disturbances” they caused.
In its latest judgment, the Court said the way in which the situation had been managed was "manifestly not in his best interests”, before referring to the words of the child’s guardian, who described the case as one of “chronic neglect”.
Pictured: The Court heard the teen was in a situation that could only be described as “extreme”.
The Court said that Children's Service had identified the need for an alternative placement for the teen two years ago but that nothing had come to fruition since.
The family and guardian wanted parental responsibility to be handed over to the Minister by way of an interim care order to ensure the child could get specialist help.
Despite the Minister arguing parental responsibility shouldn’t be given to him until the outcome of a psychologist’s report, the Court made an interim care order in his favour, as requested.
“We acknowledge that the decisions which the Minister will have to make will be difficult, but where no one is there to exercise parental responsibility it falls upon the Minister to do so,” the Court said. “He has the expertise and resources at his disposal for that purpose.”
In July 2021 the Minister sought to place the teen in a UK facility from September, until which time he would stay with his family.
During the hearing, it emerged that the teen’s family had told the Minister they wouldn’t be able to look after him beyond another six weeks.
In early August, the Court ordered that the opinion of a mental health social worker or psychiatrist over the child’s ability to give his content to live outside of Jersey be sought, along with an expert assessment for autism. They also ordered the Minister to file a statement and updated care plan within four weeks, setting out in particular details of a contingency plan on-island.
By the time of the hearing in September, the Court said that, “regrettably”, the Minister had taken “no steps to pursue the contingency plan of an on-island placement” and had not filed an updated care plan with details of that placement as ordered, causing “valuable time” to be lost.
Pictured: The Minister failed to file a statement and updated care plan within four weeks as ordered by the Court.
The Court also noted how a new social worker appointed to the child a week before the hearing had not been told of the family’s six-week ultimatum, which expired later that week; and which the Court itself had not heard of until part way through the hearing.
The social worker told Court no placements were currently available in Jersey. They explained that the Minister wanted a full assessment before an on-island placement that would meet his needs could be found in order to have “any chance of not failing him”.
The social worker also acknowledged that such an assessment would require the boy’s cooperation, and that several professionals had so far failed in conducting one. “It was a catch-22 situation,” the Court noted.
The guardian however didn’t accept that “absolutely nothing” was available in Jersey.
During the hearing, the family’s lawyer drew the Court’s attention to the fact a residential placement had been identified in June 2020, which the grandparents and mother consented to. However, that was then cancelled by the Minister “without explanation” at 19:00 the night before the proposed move.
The Court concluded that the teen had to be moved from his family’s care but that, if he would not consent to an off-island placement, the Minister was “under a duty” to provide an on-island placement for which preparatory steps were “urgently” required.
They gave the Minister seven days to file his statement and updated care plan and ordered a new meeting a month later.
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.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.