Former Child Care Officer and Children’s Officer, Mr Anton Skinner, on Tuesday (28 July) began giving evidence to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry about his experiences of the department’s work from 1973 onwards.
Mr Skinner joined Children's Services in 1973 as a trainee Child Care Officer and attended Nottingham Trent Polytechnic in 1974 in order to obtain formal training and qualify as a social worker. He was promoted to Senior Child Care officer in 1978. In 1984 he was seconded to Berkshire Social Services as Principal Assistant as preparation for him to assume the role of Children's Officer and become Head of Children’s Services between 1986 and 1995. Between 1995 and 2002 he was Director of Community and Social Services, and from 2002, Chief Executive of Health and Community Services before retiring in 2005 and working as Director of Jersey Focus, a mental health charity, before retiring in 2010.
Inquiry Counsel, Mr Patrick Sadd, took Mr Skinner through his witness statement in which he described the day-to-day set-up, management and workings of the Child Care field team; how they dealt with children who they considered needed to be in care and their relationship with the Children’s Sub-Committee and the Education Committee.
He commented on the 1981 Lambert and Wilkinson report into the reviews conducted by Child Care Officers, the options available for child placements, former colleagues and various incidents involving children at Haut de la Garenne.
He told the Panel that Haut de la Garenne could never have met the complex needs of the children there and that a generation of children between 1970-1985 were failed by the system as the standard of care was “unimpressive”. He stated the detention rooms were used for children that were absconding - not as punishment facilities - but as somewhere to cool down and not abscond again. Mr Sadd asked him to comment on reports and memos from other Child Care Officers. Mr Skinner said he did not know about specific incidents of abuse or of specific people abusing children during that period but accepted that it would have occurred in an institution of that size. He also gave evidence about the closure of Haut de la Garenne and commented on the effectiveness of the Family Group Home system.
Mr Skinner talked about the use of corporal punishment, the setting-up of the Child Protection Team in 1985, the establishment of Childline in 1986 and responded to questions about how he dealt with allegations of abuse against various care home staff.
He described the need for training opportunities in the 1990s and the training initiative set up with the National Children's Home.
Mr Skinner will continue giving evidence from 0930 tomorrow (Wednesday 29 June). See Timetable.
Full transcripts and supporting documents will be available in due course.