For me, there were two separate occasions of going ‘on the record’. The first was back in January when I felt that I had no option but to make a formal complaint about the treatment of children in the secure children’s home. The second was when I decided to publicise my concerns with Community Care.
My formal complaint involved compiling a letter into which I put a great deal of thought and time. I hand delivered it to the Chief Executive of Health and Social Services and to the Directorate Manager of Social Services. They independently reassured me, and even thanked me for having the courage to come forward with my concerns. For a moment I felt comforted. It seemed probable that my concerns would be investigated and that the truth would put an end to the punitive treatment of children and young people in secure accommodation in Jersey. After many months of waiting and isolation from the workplace, I received notification that “no evidence had been found” to support my allegations. I was dismissed from my post within a fortnight.
I followed the relevant appeals processes which eventually led me to the very top, in the form of Senator Syvret, Minister for Health and Social Services. As soon as he received my letter, Senator Syvret telephoned me to hear my side of the story. He felt that the investigations into my complaints did not withstand scrutiny and he called on his senior officers for more information. Senator Syvret made enquiries of his own into Jersey’s children’s services and he was not happy with what he found. A full-on political battle ensued, and now the Council of Ministers is attempting to sack Senator Syvret. I was worried that any chance of justice for Jersey’s looked after children would be buried in a complex – and very public – political wrangle which has clouded and confused the original issues.
Since studying for my Diploma in Social Work, I have always read Community Care and I value the breadth of professional learning I gain from it. I decided that publicising my story was the only way to expose these matters to a wider audience and hopefully force accountability on those officials in Jersey who are responsible for investigating, turning a blind eye to, and then covering up abusive childcare practices.
Would I encourage other people to come forward and go on the record with their concerns? It is a difficult question to answer. I would advise those in the social work profession to exhaust all internal complaints mechanisms and to ensure that they have a written audit trail with evidence to support their concerns. It is important to follow your agency’s whistle-blowing policy and use their appeals process as necessary.
As for me, my career has been threatened, and I now await an employment tribunal to hopefully clear my name. I have endured personal and professional criticism from peers, colleagues and senior managers. My wife and I have suffered extraordinary stress and anxiety. But…I have heard from sources still working at the secure children’s home that most of the child care practices I complained about have ceased, all the improvements I was struggling to introduce have been implemented, and the treatment of young people in secure accommodation in Jersey has definitely improved. Has it been worth it? Yes.