Haut de la garenne: Jersey care abuse inquiry says children may still be at risk
The damning report also says children may still be at risk on the island.
The £23m inquiry found that children in Jersey “do not have a voice – or at least one that is taken seriously or respected”.
The notorious Haut de la Garenne children’s home which was at the centre of many of the allegations and was dubbed the “house of horrors”, should be demolished, the report recommends.
The inquiry, chaired by Frances Oldham QC, said: “We believe that the buildings at Haut de la Garenne are a reminder of an unhappy past or shameful history for many people.”
This inquiry took 3 years and says there were persistent failures in the care system, there was no will to invest in resources and there was a lack of leadership. It also found failings still existed in Jersey’s child care systems and that “lessons of the past have not been learned”.
It continues: “It was “deplorable that the States of Jersey has failed to understand its role as a corporate parent and that… the island’s most vulnerable children were not give sufficient priority.”
The inquiry said persistent failures existed at all levels in the management, operation and governance of children’s homes in Jersey for decades.
The inquiry also found that some children were put into care without a lawful basis, including for petty theft and for being rude.
It found that, once in care, children, some of whom suffered physical and sexual abuse, were “effectively abandoned in the care system” and “left powerless for decades”.
There has been a long absence of political and professional will in Jersey to monitor care standards in Jersey, the report says.
It goes on: “That there were failings is not in dispute.
“Those failings impacted on children already at a disadvantage, whether through family circumstances, a crime committed against the child or even a crime committed by the child.
“For many children who were removed from home situations deemed harmful or unsatisfactory, the States of Jersey proved to be an ineffectual and neglectful substitute parent.”
The inquiry followed a police investigation in 2007 which established 151 named offenders and 192 victims, but led to only seven successful prosecutions.
The inquiry panel investigated the running of the island’s care homes between 1945 and 2015 when, on a visit to the Greenfields Centre home it reported: “We were concerned about the prison like nature of the facility and by the regime, as described to us at the time of our visit.”
The report said some aspects of Jersey’s children’s services were still “not fully fit for purpose,” though panel members had met many people now committed to the island’s children.
Ms Oldham said: “In summary, over many decades, there were persist not failures in the governance, management and operation of children’s homes in Jersey. Failings were at all levels.
“There was no political interest in defining and promoting standards of care and performance in residential care and no will to invest the resources required in child care services.
“Unsuitable people were appointed to management roles, often on the basis of local connections, lacked the leadership skills to manage and raise practice standards and had little up-to-date knowledge of child care theory and practice.”
The report recommended the appointment of a Commissioner for Children and a Children’s Rights Officer. It also called for more regular inspection of homes and better staff recruitment.
It also criticised an expression – “The Jersey Way” – heard often during the inquiry, which was something at best described as the upholding of tradition, at worst the placation of powerful interests.
Ms Oldham called on the Jersey community to consider ways of eradicating the negative interpretation of the phrase.
In simple language, nothing is ever going to be done, no one will ever be held accountable.
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