The UK social work expert leading a child protection review in Jersey has said there is “no evidence” that children are currently at risk on the island but more improvements are needed.
Andrew Williamson said: “As a result of my interviews and visits there are a number of organisational and structural changes that will be recommended.
“And I am very pleased to see that a number of these are already being addressed. For example, the HR policies for dealing with inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour when working with children are now firmly in place.”
Williamson was appointed last September after concern over the lack of external overview or inspections of services for children on the island.
He has since conducted more than 70 interviews with care workers and children there and visited a number of establishments.
He said: “Throughout my interviews I have asked whether they are aware of any children known to be at risk today and action not being taken and I have been offered no evidence of this happening. This is not to say that the safeguarding systems and services currently in operation are perfect, and of course there can be improvements. There is always a need for vigilance when working with and for children.”
Williamson added that many of the concerns raised last year “have started to be addressed”.
He said a policy of locking children in solitary confinement at the Greenfields secure unit on the island – under a system known as grand prix – had ended. UK social worker Simon Bellwood was sacked last year after he raised concerns over the practice.
Williamson said: “With regard to the Greenfields secure unit, I am pleased to note that the grand prix system has been ended, with the acknowledgement that the wording was inappropriate. All centres of this type operate systems of sanctions and rewards and the efforts of the staff at the centre today are being invested in delivering a secure care system that meets today’s standards.”
He also welcomed the involvement of the Howard League for Penal Reform, whose representatives will travel to Jersey later this month to review secure services.
Williamson’s appointment last year came before the current police investigation into abuse at a former children’s home became public. His final report is expected later this month.
Police are continuing their search of the Haut de la Garenne site after finding what is believed to be a child’s remains a fortnight ago.
Williamson said he had “agreed a protocol” with the deputy chief of police to ensure his work “did not in any way adversely affect the smooth running of the police inquiry”. He also acknowledged the “sadness of some of the issues some families may be facing”.
Letter from victim
Jersey police confirmed today there are 20-25 suspects in the Haut de la Garenne investigation.
They also published a letter recieved from one of the victims of alleged abuse at the home.
The victim wrote to officers: “Prior to our meeting, the thought of having to visit the ‘black area’ of my life and relive the events of my past, having to actually face them again and talk about them in details, filled me with fear and utter dismay… I can say now that a heavy weight has been lifted not only from my shoulders, but from my heart also. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I am now walking towards it.”