Bill Ogley, chief executive of the States of Jersey, responds to Community Care’s questions
We have received information on a system known as “Grand Prix” which we understand was in use at a secure unit called Greenfields. Why was this in use?
Greenfields is a state of the art £4.5 million Secure Unit for vulnerable and at risk children between the age of 10 and school leaving age. It became operational in September 2006.
This brand new facility replaces an old and moribund secure unit which was called Les Chenes (which still sits on the Greenfields site). The physical fabric of and the working practices at Les Chenes rightly drew criticism from Dr Kathie Bull, who conducted an independent public inquiry into the Les Chenes service and subsequently, other services for children, during 2001 and 2002. The creation of the new Greenfields facility was the direct and tangible outcome of that criticism.
In the interim period – that is, between the findings of Dr Kathie Bull’s report and the opening of the new Greenfields facility – measures were taken to stabilise Les Chenes and create an orderly and safe environment for the children who were cared for there – against a background of children absconding, instances of children harming other children there, and assaults upon staff. One of the measures taken was to introduce a system of rewards and incentives to establish improved behaviours. This was called the “Grand Prix” system. It is based on Formula 1 Racing terms – such as “qualifier”, “grid”, being on the “track” etc.
All the evidence suggests that this Grand Prix system was successful in achieving its purpose – to the extent that it was no longer necessary and was phased out.
Why did the use of the Grand Prix system cease, and when?
The Grand Prix system was formally withdrawn in September 2006 when the new Greenfields became operational. The Grand Prix system was an attempt to create an orderly and safe environment in a physical building (Les Chenes) which was not fit for purpose. Increased investment in staffing, training and the new built environment meant that such a system was no longer required.
An independent inquiry has now been established to examine current child protection arrangements within the States of Jersey including all policies and procedures that are applied at Greenfields.
Has there been any kind of investigation into the previous use of this system? If there has been one, what was the conclusion?
In January 2007, a serious concern was raised by a member of staff using the States of Jersey’s “Raising Serious Concerns Policy’’ (more colloquially known as “the whistle-blowing policy”). This concern included the historical use of the “Grand Prix System” which was investigated by the States of Jersey’s Child Protection Manager. This senior professional – her experience includes being a member of the NSPCC’s Specialist Investigation Service – found that the policies and practices which were in use at Greenfields in January 2007 were consistent with the welfare and safety of the children and with staff safety.
What is in place now?
As previously stated increased investment in staffing, training and the new built environment has meant that policies and procedures more appropriate to the day to day management and support of vulnerable young people in a secure setting are now possible.
The current system which governs the physical restraint of children within all of the States of Jersey’s residential and secure facilities is known as “Therapeutic Crisis Intervention”, an accredited system which is in operation in many countries. Staff are regularly trained in its use and every incident of physical restraint is fully recorded – and those records are reviewed by a specialist who reports to an executive director whose managerial responsibilities are entirely distinct and separate from the Children’s Executive Service responsible for the management of Greenfields.
Are there currently any reasons to suggest practice at Greenfields is not protecting children’s rights adequately?
The policies, practices and staff training in place at Greenfields have been deemed to be robust and appropriate by a senior professional – the States of Jersey’s child protection manager – who is independent of the management of Greenfields.
Can you outline what progress on children’s services in Jersey has been made since the recommendations of the Kathy Bull report?
A major independent public inquiry was undertaken by Dr. Kathie Bull, who was seconded from the Office of Standards in Education (Ofsted) for this purpose. Published in 2002, her report was entitled, “The Principles, Practices and Provision for Children and Young People with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties and Disorders in the Island of Jersey”. One of the principal recommendations was that the States of Jersey create a “Children’s Executive” and that this body be charged with the responsibility of reviewing all the recommendations and bringing forward proposals for service development and improvement in line with the resources made available by the States of Jersey. The recommendations of the subsequent report ‘Meeting the Needs of SEBD Children in Jersey’ (March 2004) were approved by the States of Jersey. All of the recommendations of the ‘Meeting the Needs’ report have been implemented.
We understand the Jersey government has announced a review of children’s services. Can you detail what this will consist of and whether it will involve any UK authorities?
In response to the Senator Syvret’s continuing allegations, the Council of Ministers has made it clear that its overriding concern in this matter is the protection of children.
To date, the Senator has made numerous claims but has produced no evidence and has stated that he is not aware of any immediate danger to a child at this moment.
However, it is clear that in the current climate created by the Senator there is a heightened risk to children and the Council has determined that this must be addressed as quickly as possible. It has therefore decided to establish a thorough independent professional investigation into the standards, structure and performance of the child protection arrangements in Jersey. The initial terms of reference are attached and they will be refined as necessary.
Andrew Williamson CBE has been appointed to undertake the review. This follows advice from Lord Laming, one of the UK’s foremost experts in child protection. Mr Williamson has been Director of Social Services for Devon County, Secretary of the Association of Directors of Social Services, and has extensive non-executive experience in Health. He has undertaken a number of enquiries in Local Authorities and NHS Trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He has also served on the Criminal Justice Council advising the UK Government on all aspects of the Criminal and Judicial system. Mr Williamson has also been engaged in developing child protection services in Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova.
Mr Williamson has now started his initial enquiries. He will be starting work in Jersey in early September and is intent on carrying out a detailed and thorough examination of services and child protection arrangements.
The Chief Minster, Senator Frank Walker commented “I am very pleased that someone so highly respected in the field has agreed to undertake this independent review. In the current climate the Council of Ministers’ overriding concern is the protection of children. We have seen no evidence to support Senator Syvret’s concerns, but for the sake of children who may be at risk and the staff who are being adversely affected we must end the current uncertainty.”
This review which will report to the Council of Ministers in the first instance will be thorough, professional and will be reported openly.
Can you tell us if you are aware of how many UK social workers have come in to Jersey over recent years? Have there been any complaints about services from these social workers? Are you aware that any have left, and are you aware of their reasons for leaving?
Over the last four years, thirty-three social workers have been employed from the UK. Four of these have left after a short period (under six months). Of these four, one worked in the adult social work service, one in the special needs service, and two in children’s services. In two cases the individuals left the Island and resigned retrospectively giving no opportunity to carry out an exit interview – offers of exit interviews being standard practice within the Department.
With regard to the other two, one of the social workers failed their probationary period – and the other resigned before completing her probationary in the knowledge that she would fail. Human resources have two written complaints on file from social workers recruited in the last four years. These have been fully investigated.
How would you respond to allegations that children in Jersey are being put at risk because there are insufficient checks and balances on services, and that staff feel afraid to speak out on poor practice for fear of reprisal?
As the Minister for Health and Social Services has levelled allegations – albeit without evidence to support those allegations – the States of Jersey has decided to commission an independent review which will investigate these allegations and will make recommendations as to any and all actions that are considered immediately necessary to ensure the highest standards of child care and child protection. This work may well inform any formal committee of enquiry which the States of Jersey may subsequently wish to commission. This action has been taken as a matter of urgency to ensure that the current disruption to services and staff is ended as soon as possible and thereby ensure that clients receive the best service.