Saturday, 19 April 2008

The Greenfields Centre - the culture

This blog is about the culture , as I saw it, at the Greenfields centre when I arrived.

When I arrived at Greenfields in August 2006 the new £5.5million unit was not quite finished so I worked in the old building until October 8th.

The old building was not fit for purpose, it had inadequate facilities, security and resources. The States of Jersey have publicly stated that they understood that the old building was not fit for purpose and that was why the new building was commissioned.

On the face of it this might seem like a rational explanation. What you don’t read in the media, well not the JEP anyway, is the other side of the story.

My concern about this seemingly rational explanation is this. On 23rd May 2008 during the meeting where he sacked me, Phil Dennett, claimed that the reason why the Grandprix system was used was because the old buildings security was not adequate. The sheer audacity of this statement still concerns me to this day. Phil Dennett claimed that measures (the grandprix system) had to be in place to keep the young people safe and prevent them from absconding.

My question is this, why did you need to place young people in solitary confinement upon admission to the building for 24 hours? Why did you need to have a predetermined length of time in solitary confinement for bad behaviour (See ‘Pits’ section of Grandprix document in my previous blog)? I can only assume that the whole regime was designed purely to instill a sense of ‘behave or you know what’s coming’ into the young people to ensure complaince. Perhaps this is what Phil Dennett meant when he said that it had to be used to keep them safe?

My view is this. I believe that there were a number of other options available to them which did not require the use of solitary confinement, unless absolutely needed and for as short a period as possible.

What was needed was more money; more money for staff, for training and for extra resources. This subject is perhaps better for another day but let me leave you with this thought. Phil Dennett was quoted in the JEP last year saying that it costs £50,000 per child per year to stay in the Greenfields centre. In the UK the average cost per child in a secure children’s home is £200,000 per year.

That is quadruple the investment that the States of Jersey put into their most vulnerable and needy young people – perhaps this would evidence the link in relation to recidivism rates for young offenders in Jersey and the high occupancy levels at La Moye’s YOI.

That said, back to the subject of further options to the grandprix system. One choice would have been to spend some money on securing the building further, as an interim measure a few years ago so that young people were not subjected to institutionalised abuse in the guide of a Grandprix system?

I am sure that the £5.5 million needed for the new building could have been used better. Perhaps reducing the size of the sports area by 200% (still leaving it big enough for one full size badminton court and room to watch) could have saved them 1% of the new budget.

That 1% would have given them £55,000 to make the old building a little more fit for purpose and more importantly it would have prevented numerous young people being held unlawfully in solitary confinement for years. The fact that the new building would not have had three badminton courts (like it does now) surely would not have been too problematic for the average occupancy of less than 2 children in residence that it has witnessed since it opened in October 2006.

Who is to blame for all this?

There are many facets to this question.

Was the person who introduced the system responsible? If this is true then Joe Kennedy is to blame.

Was the jersey child protection system to blame? If this is true then all of the members of the Jersey Child Protection Committee were to blame. This would also include Marnie Baudains. Mike Pollard, Mario Lundy, Tony Le Sueur, Phil Dennett, Linda Dodds and Stuart Syvret - the senior figures who have responsibility for vulnerable children.

Were the staff who worked at Greenfields to blame? If this is true then they must all be held responsible.

My view, on the face of it would have been to say that the responsibility is shared amongst them all.

However, I have learnt many things since my ordeal began back in October 2006 and this changes my view of who is responsible and who should be held to account.

I have heard people make judgments of the staff who work at Greenfields and this concerns me greatly - I would like to explain why.

To give an example, when I left the building for the last time in January 2007 I went to the Doctors to get signed off work, and to submit my serious concerns complaint (whistleblowing complaint) as I could no longer face my manager and the stress of working with him or ‘his way’ of working.

That night I received one text messages and two phone calls. I still have the text message. I saved it in my phone, not to disclose, but to remind me of the culture of fear that is so prevalent amongst the staff group in Greenfields.

The text reads,

"Call me at home on ****** and then delete this"

The message and the two phone calls, with the numbers withheld, were from staff at the Greenfields Centre. Why you might ask was there so much secrecy and fear?

In my view, the reason for the fear and subsequent compliance by the young people was due to the Grandprix system. The same fear and subsequent comp;iance of the staff was due to the history of watching others speaking out and repeatedly living to regret it. Staff who may have challenged the status quo, the management or the systems were left wishing they had kept quiet.

What happened to them, they were bullied, they were ostracized, they were excluded, they were made to regret it.

Ultimately, they then watched the same thing happen to me. My experience will have done one thing - it will have cemented that fear further and until something is done to change the culture, further potential inadequacies and errors within the service will remain undetected.

It is this culture that I want to change, it is not just to confined to Greenfields and the residential service it is widespread across the States of Jersey civil service, not in all departments and teams but in too many of them.

Anyway, I digress. Want I want to make clear to readers is that whilst they may still hold the view that the staff are somewhat to blame I hope that I have allowed you to understand that it is not that simple.

I for one do not hold the staff to blame. They do a job that is not highly paid, is very demanding and stressful and they do this to the best of their ability. Furthermore, the training that they are given is facilitated by the very people who ARE responsible for the existence of the Grandprix system, the senior civil servants.

This leads me on to Stuart Syvret. I wish to make it clear that my comments are will be in relation to what I have known of Stuart and not about his political stance - not that I disagree with it, I just want to keep this story away from politics.

Its 3am so I will continue this tomorrow night – also this subject deserves a blog of it’s own!

4 comments:

Benjamin Langlois said...

Simon,

I just wanted to congratulate you on your blog; it is great that you are sharing your own personal experience with us 'outsiders' who only know what the establishment wants us to know.

Keep up the good work.

- Benjamin Langlois
The State of Jersey

Anonymous said...

Simon,

You are writing this blog so honestly and from your heart.I shall be reading it daily, and hope my colleagues will be to.We have been kept in the dark regarding the details of you loosing your job and i can assure you that we at waiting for your story to unfold publically.I have looked out for you to shake your hand and say thank you, along with Stuart Syvret.The culture you describe was there long before you arrived, it was only a matter of time before someone recieved the treatment you were subjected to.Infact there were probably others, but none as brave as you to challenge and expose it.They either left or realised they had to "shut Up".I could say more, but not today.

Anonymous said...

Simon

You need to keep this going. Many people are logging on to see what you are going to say next, many are relying on you.

For goodness sake, follow Stuart's lead and nurture and tend to your blog

You have many supporters, but you need to maintain the momentum

Anonymous said...

Simon

I have followed this story with great interest.

The treatment you recieved happened to me also - to a lesser degree - I worked for H&SS.

This has also happened to other too.

I am not sure if you were in the island when a very senior manager was asked to leave - Mike Pollard was heavily involved in a very corrupt way - when she began to uncover and question practices within the service. It may be useful to contact her. I am sure that she would be able to give you lots of background information on some very questionable people......

I am sure that if you ask around people will be able to give you her contact details.

Good luck...

Bushboy