A UK social work expert and the Howard League for Penal Reform have been invited to Jersey in the wake of allegations about child protection failings on the island.
June Thoburn, Emeritus Professor of Social Work at the University of East Anglia has been appointed as the new chair of Jersey’s child protection committee.
The move comes after health and social services minister Stuart Syvret sacked the committee’s previous chair Iris Le Feuvre.
The Howard League for Penal Reform has also been invited to Jersey by Syvret to investigate youth custody after UK social worker Simon Bellwood blew the whistle on “abusive” practice.
Community Care exclusively revealed a fortnight ago that Bellwood claimed he was sacked for raising concerns about children being held in solitary confinement at Greenfields secure unit on the island.
His case has already helped spark a three-month inquiry into children’s services on the island by UK expert Andrew Williamson, and the Howard League inquiry could run alongside it.
Jersey’s health minister Stuart Syvret, who has supported Bellwood’s case, has asked the Howard League to examine “the whole sphere” of child and youth custody.
Syvret said Thoburn would be able to undertake any research “she considers necessary” and publish a report and recommendations at the end of an initial 12-month contract.
The chief minister’s office in the Jersey government confirmed Thoburn’s appointment and chief minister Frank Walker said he welcomed the proposed Howard League review.
He added: “The Williamson review has already been commissioned and a committee of enquiry, with full legal powers, is likely to be commissioned very shortly to look into Senator Syvret’s allegations. I am concerned that we should not be undertaking too many reviews on the same subject and that the efficiency of our child care services will be affected if there are any more claims on the time of all the people involved.”
The Howard League confirmed they would be going to Jersey.
Syvret is facing a vote of no confidence from ministers in Jersey on September 11 following an intense political row about child protection on the island.
Bellwood said this week that he hoped the UK-led inquiries would “bring to light any deficiencies in the child welfare and protection system.”
He added: “I told my story to Community Care magazine as I felt that without publicity the abusive regime of placing children routinely in solitary confinement in place until October 2006 would be brushed under the carpet for ever. Going public was not an easy decision to make. I have been involved in this dispute for nearly a year and having exhausted all other options and having followed all of the policies laid down by the States of Jersey I had no choice but to become a whistleblower. The only way this was ever going to be investigated properly was through publicising the issues.
“I believe many of the recommendations of the Kathie Bull report [by Ofsted inspector and UK social work expert] which highlighted serious concerns about children’s services on Jersey in 2002, have not been fulfilled. The report is now five years old, even if they had completed all of the recommendations, without regular inspections and external scrutiny this still places those recommendations out of date by five years; which in social work terms is a lifetime.”
States of Jersey
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