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Vulnerable child passed “from pillar to post” until crisis

Vulnerable child passed “from pillar to post” until crisis

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Vulnerable child passed “from pillar to post” until crisis


A vulnerable Jersey child requiring specialist care was failed by the government after years of being passed “from pillar to post” until “matters reached crisis point”, a damning report has concluded.

The finding led the States Complaints Board (SCB) – a panel responsible for investigating public grievances with how the government operates – to urge the Health and Community Services Department (HCS) to review its processes after parents were “discouraged” from playing a part in their child’s recovery amid several other mistakes and “poor” communications.

Led in this instance by Deputy Chairman Stuart Catchpole QC, the panel also reminded the Health Minister that duty of care extends to families and carers, as well as just patients.

The complaint focused on the fact a division of HCS made no progress in supporting a vulnerable child they hit “crisis”, despite the child having been seen by a number of different people within the division over more than three years.

The Board heard that the child was “moved from pillar to post” with little communication and “continuity of care, being dealt with with by numerous nurse practitioners, but few qualified professionals.  

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Pictured: The Division was accused of not keeping accurate records of its meetings with the family.

X - one of the parents whose name was withheld in the report to protect the child’s identity -  also said there was “no consistent record-keeping”, which resulted in the same, sometimes “intrusive”, questions being asked repeatedly.

The child was first referred to the division by their GP after displaying certain symptoms and experiencing difficulties at school. X told the Complaints board that the Division did not been provide “any workable strategies, or support” to help them deal with the child.

After X raised concerns over the little progress that had been made, the child was interviewed alone by a professional, who wrote a report. Despite containing an allegation they were unable to counter, the report was withheld from the parents.

Following the interview, the child’s ability to cope at school and at home severely declined, and they became particularly “vulnerable and at risk.” X said HCS should have involved them more fully at this point, but instead “deliberately shut their eyes to the issues” and closed the child’s file.

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Pictured: A report about the child was withheld from the family.

“It appears to me that it was convenient for the [Division] not to ensure recommendations were followed up so they would not have to make the resources available to help resolve the problem. It is a shame that families have to reach breaking point before anything constructive is done,” X said.

The complaint also mentioned another service within HCS, which got involved with the family and the child at the time things broke down.

While the parents initially thought the service would be helpful, they said employees didn’t take their views seriously. X said they even felt bullied by some professionals.

X further alleged that some professionals’ reports about the parents and wider family were “incorrect,” and written “with malicious intent.”

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Pictured: The parents felt they had been prevented from getting their child the help it needed.

During one meeting with the service, X raised concerns over the child being denied access to a range of professionals services, to which the employee apparently “responded by rolling [their] eyes to the ceiling.”

When X challenged them, the employee was said to become “aggressive”, saying that X was not “looking after the best interests” of the child before walking out.

X then made a complaint, but found that it wasn’t acknowledged or dealt with.

During the SCB process, an HCS representative fro apologised for the employee’s behaviour and for the time it had taken to respond to the complaint.

The representative told the Board that their attempts to engage with the parents – in person and in writing – had sometimes been declined.

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Pictured: The parents said the service had “diverted the fault” onto them and behaved in a “disgraceful” way.

They argued that a clerical error had led to the report not being shared with parents, acknowledging that reports are usually shared with parents.

Since then, the division said it had introduced a random audit of letters to ensure that any similar errors are identified and addressed. 

While saying he respected the work the Service provides “to countless children and families”, Mr Catchpole concluded that “mistakes were made, communication was poor, and record-keeping was limited and inaccurate.”

“Little effort was made to establish a positive working relationship with the very people who had sought help for their child from the Service in the first place," he wrote in the SCB’s report.

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Pictured: Mr Catchpole recommended the division conduct a further review of its processes.

Mr Catchpole also reminded the Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, who has political responsibility for the department: “Parents must be actively encouraged to play a participatory role - sadly in this case they were actively discouraged by the actions of the Service towards them.”

He recommended a further review be undertaken to assess the extent to which the current policies either adequately address the matters raised in the case, or could be improved for the future.

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