26 March 2010
Statement made by Deputy Anne Pryke on behalf of the Children's Policy Group following the publication of the Jersey Child Protection Committee's Serious Case Review:
I am going to make a statement on behalf of the Children’s Policy Group, but before I start I want to say sorry to these children and their family. They were involved with a large number of agencies for more than 12 years. The Serious Case Review shows how things went wrong and my fellow ministers and I are determined to do all we possibly can to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again.
We’ll be able to answer general questions about the Serious Case Review process, but unfortunately we cannot answer questions about the actual findings. We need to protect the family’s right to privacy and ensure that we don’t inadvertently prejudice the outcome of any future civil action that may be taken on behalf of the children.
Before I read the statement, I would like to thank the Jersey Child Protection Committee for undertaking this Review, and re-iterate what Mike Taylor has said about its purpose. A Serious Case Review aims to support open, transparent government. It is about supporting people to identify problems, learn lessons and improve practice without fear of repercussions. It is not about apportioning blame.
Working with vulnerable children is extremely challenging. We all want to protect them and keep them safe and it is absolutely tragic when they are harmed.
By their nature cases such as these and the circumstances surrounding this family are complex. The review covers a 12 year period, but the needs of this family spanned many more years.
During this time there have been significant changes in the law and child welfare processes. Child protection techniques have become much more sophisticated. More is now known about abuse and neglect. Improvements in practice, training and awareness mean that abuse is much more likely to be detected now than it was in the past.
A Serious Case Review provides us with the benefit of hindsight. It helps us look back at a case, analyse the facts and identify lessons, so that services can be strengthened. And we – the 3 Children’s Policy Group Ministers - recognise that there are lessons to be learnt. The review sets out all of the actions acrossall of the agencies and therefore we can see where things went wrong. It recognises that over the years, everyone who engaged with this family tried to do their best for them.
This Review shows the need for improved inter-agency working. This is central to the work of the Children’s Policy Group which was created to provide more robust political leadership across, and amongst, agencies that protect children.
Some of the recommendations of the Review have already been implemented. The Children (Jersey) Law 2002, which came into force in 2005, has helped support better practice and has also provided a much more effective legal framework in which to protect children.
Last year the States voted an extra £3.2 million to strengthen child protection services through the implementation of the Williamson Plan. This money will help us make changes that will provide a greater degree of protection to our vulnerable children. And, as reported last week, it is already making a difference. That said, we do remain acutely aware that the day-to-day case loads of child protection specialists remains high and will continue to do so. We place heavy reliance on their professionalism and commitment to children.
The Serious Case Review recognises that our staff are dedicated and committed. It also recognises that a lot of good practice already exists, both within individual agencies and in the interface between them. We are absolutely committed to building on this through the implementation of all the Review’s recommendations.
The Jersey Child Protection Committee will oversee the delivery of the recommendations. Our work with them is part of our ongoing commitment to working in a transparent and open manner, as is the appointment of the Social Work Inspection Agency to review the children’s service and the planned appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer.
Anything that involves the abuse of children, strikes at the heart of what we are all about – the protection of vulnerable children. We will do all in our power to ensure that such circumstances never arise again.
I started my statement by saying how sorry we are that these children have been harmed. I would like to finish by saying how pleased we are that the children are in safe placements and responding well to the support they are receiving.