Three temporary Jersey children's homes failed to meet official standards of care
Emma Volney has the story...
Three government-run children's homes in Jersey have been branded not fit for purpose by inspectors who say they failed to meet official standards of care.
All three were unregistered properties where vulnerable children were being housed.
In one of the properties, a staff member had to sleep on a temporary Z-bed in the main living area.
The Jersey Care Commission inspection also found that staff working hours were "excessive", regularly over the stipulated hours - and in one case 70.5 hours in one week.
Their shifts at the homes regularly took place on top of their normal duties within the Children, Young People, Education and Skills (CYPES) Department.
In one home, care was provided by 47 different members social care staff - including agency Social Workers, Family Support Workers, Residential Care Officers and Foster Carers.
Typically, a home of this size would have seen 10 staff members provide the necessary care and supervision.
The homes had been operating since December 2022 and January 2023 and none seemed to have any one person in charge.
Inspectors said the lack of consistency of care would be "highly likely to have adversely impacted on the care workers’ opportunities to build positive, sustained and trusting relationships with care receivers".
In one of the homes, staff claimed there were no accidents of injuries, however evidence from the daily logs showed frequent incidents of harm, either by children to themselves or to others.
Inspectors found that in another home, there were "daily incidents of concern which put care receivers and staff members at risk".
Staff had to use their own cars to transport children and could not prove whether they were correctly insured for business use.
The set ups of the homes also came into question. In one property, young people and staff were sharing a sole bathroom.
This contravenes the rules for children in care, who must have access to en-suite facilities.
There was no locked medicine cabinet - drugs were stored in the staff bedroom.
A number of staff had not been trained in food hygiene.
Staff at the facility told inspectors that it was too risky to make promote contact between the young people and any siblings, however no risk assessments had taken place to support that claim.
In response to the three damning reports, Jersey's Children Minister, Deputy Inna Gardiner, said: "The Ministerial Team and my department note the findings of the reports published by the Jersey Care Commission, relating to unregistered, regulated activity at buildings used temporarily to provide temporary emergency care for children pending the creation of longer-term care arrangements in registered settings on the Island.
"To protect the identity and privacy of the young people who were in those homes, I cannot go into detail about why children were placed into care at those locations, or the locations themselves, but I can offer a reassurance that children or young people were placed there with carers, due to genuine, urgent circumstances, and to ensure they were not in a potentially harmful situation. The nature of looking after children to ensure their best interests sometimes necessitates quick decision-making involving things like their location.
"We have noted the concerns raised in the reports and we have addressed the concerns, and I can confirm there is no unregulated activity taking place at this time. As part of the Government Plan, we have received investment to increase care capacity across residential and fostering services in Jersey, and we are making good progress in establishing new facilities and recruiting new carers. These plans are key to prevent the need for unregistered placements.
"I understand that these reports may cause concern, but I would reassure Islanders that the needs and welfare of the child or young person requiring care are always the first priority for all colleagues who work in this area, which can be complex, and sometimes situations involving a child or young person need to be resolved swiftly. In some cases, after detailed discussions, this may involve moving them to a location which is not normally used as a children’s home. Unregistered, regulated care is a very rare event.
"Since this time, we have added accommodation for three children which is now registered with the Jersey Care Commission."