Jersey’s child protection committee could have done more to prevent abuse in the past, according to its chair June Thoburn, a UK social work expert.
Thoburn, who is emeritus professor of social work at East Anglia University, told Community Care the committee, which is similar to a local safeguarding children board, was “too closely linked” to children’s services.
Thoburn, who was appointed as independent chair of the committee last year by former social services minister Stuart Syvret, said the “same people” had run both the committee and children’s services. “Children maltreated in the past did not go to the child protection committee as they did not see it as separate from children’s services,” she said.
Thoburn’s appointment came following child protection concerns on the island, where police are continuing their investigation into historic abuse at the former Haut de la Garenne children’s home. About 160 people have given evidence alleging sexual and physical abuse, with claims dating from the 1960s to the home’s closure in 1986.
Thoburn told Community Care she wanted to give the island’s child protection committee “more teeth” by ensuring that it would have an independent chair and a “watchdog role”.
Thoburn, who is due to visit Jersey again this month, also said she was looking at setting up a special committee for children cared for away from home, such as those in prison or hospital, which would give them access to services such as Childline.
Her comments came as the Jersey government agreed to hold a public inquiry into allegations of historic child abuse on the island. It would cover questions left unanswered by the police investigation in relation to the management of children’s services, particularly those at Haut de la Garenne, from 1945 to 2000.
UK social care consultant Andrew Williamson is due to publish his review of child protection on the island over the next few weeks.
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