The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry on Thursday (6 August) heard from three witnesses about Jersey’s care system.
In the morning, Mr Tony Le Sueur, returned to conclude giving his evidence about his experience with Children’s Services since the 1980s.
He spoke about the issues around HR and recruiting staff, political and departmental structures, fostering, detention of children, children's rights,children’s referrals, parish constables, welfare and the impact of changing demographics on Jersey. He contrasted the development of the international finance sector with the lack of development of social policy on Jersey.
Answering questions from the Panel, he reiterated his view that there was a need for political commitment and a shift needed for all politicians to understand the needs of vulnerable children on Jersey.
He said a Children's Minister or central figure was needed to promote the young people and family agenda on Jersey - along with regular external inspections.
Inquiry Counsel, Mr Patrick Sadd, then began taking the second witness through his statement. Mr Richard Jouault originally worked as a Speech and Language Therapist in the UK for two years and then in Jersey for eight years until 2003, when he moved into various managerial roles within Health and Social Services.
During that time he was involved in the drafting of new legislation and worked with the former Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr Stuart Syvret, on restructuring the 'corporate parent'. He also had involvement with staff disciplinary investigations. Later, as Deputy to the Chief Officer of the health and Social Services dept he worked on the implementation of the first Andrew Williamson Report, the development of the Redress Scheme and the formation of the Child Policy Group. In September 2014 he was seconded to the Chief Minister's Department to coordinate their response to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry.
Mr Jouault provided a picture of what was happening on the ground in Children's Services following the Bull Report in 2003 and subsequent reports in order to help the IJCI establish a better understanding of the mechanisms of change taking place within Children's Services during this period. He talked about why some proposals worked and others did not. He also talked about the issue of political will in seeing through the changes in the department.
He recalled events surrounding the sacking of Iris Le Feuvre as Independent Chair of the Jersey Child Protection Committee. Mr Joault described this as highly unusual and he and the Chief Officer of Health, Mr Mike Pollard, advised the Minister, Stuart Syvret, that it was inappropriate to dismiss her.
He said that the impact of critical emails sent to him and departmental staff by Mr Syvret after he was dismissed as Minister for Health and Social Services was such that Mr Jouault felt obliged to make a formal complaint against him to the Police. He explained that it was a terrible time for the department as they also had to deal with Operation Rectangle and an 18-month period of Ministerial instability. He gave details as to how this was managed.
Mr Joault was asked about the issues drawn from the various reports that had been published during his more recent career in administration - including “Laming Compliance” which he considered to be about the caseloads of social workers, the issue of the creation of a Minister for Children, the development of a child advocacy service, staff training and increased leaving care provision.
Mr Joualt was appointed Acting Chief Officer in September 2009 to replace Mr Pollard until they could find a permanent replacement. Before he left, Mr Pollard had asked him to develop plans for dealing with potential civil liabilities from former residents and psychological support issues in the wake of Operation Rectangle.
He talked about issues surrounding lobbying for funding, appointments made to assist with the development of the service and described his role in setting up the Redress Scheme, the difficulties getting legislation through in Jersey and changes in policies and work practices in Children’s Services in recent years.
In concluding, Mr Joualt said he anticipated that the majority of people recognise how fundamentally important the IJCI is to assisting the island to improve its performance in a highly important area; and that it was important to recognise the journey that the island has had.
Mr Joualt added he was proactively looking forward to improving services in a sustained and sustainable way, making sure improvement was embedded in structures going forward. He stated it would require the continued investment of all those people who cared about the services in the island.
The third witness of the day was Mr ‘Y’, who gave evidence regarding his time working at Les Chenes School over a number of years.
Mr Sadd asked him for his response to various allegations of violence and being drunk whilst on duty that were made to the States of Jersey Police by a number of former residents and staff.
Mr Y said he did drink but if had thought he was incapable of doing his job he would not have gone to work. He said in retrospect he probably did not do his job very well, that perhaps he would not have had the children’s best interests on his mind and that he may have unknowingly put children at risk.
He said he was not a violent man and rejected all allegations of physical abuse, bullying or of using food as a form of punishment. He said he did not remember being reprimanded by his boss, Mr Tom McKeon, over pushing a child up against a wall, but accepted that if Mr McKeon said it had happened, it had.
He said he had not heard of the term “pinballing” until reports of the IJCI.
Transcripts and supporting documents will be available for viewing and download in due course.
Public hearings resume at 0900 tomorrow (Friday 7 August). See Timetable.