Sunday, 13 April 2008

Grand Prix System - Continued

My Story - Where it all started

Having worked as an Operations Manager in a Secure Children's Home for Essex County Council since February 2004 an advert in Community Care magazine (19–25 January 2006) looked appealing.

The advert was for the post of Centre Manager at Greenfields in Jersey, Channel Islands.

This advert included the following statement of values:

‘It is our core value that clients and colleagues are treated with respect, consideration, dignity, courtesy and as individuals. We value diversity and welcome applications from all sections of the community’

A statement which I would soon realise had little meaning in reality.

Although Jersey has its own government known as the States of Jersey, and it is not part of the European Union, the job description for the post of Greenfields Centre Manager made explicit reference to National Minimum Care Standards, which is a set of standards to ensure that good practice is adhered to in all United Kingdom children’s homes and secure accommodation provisions.

The States of Jersey also requires all of its social workers to be registered with the General Social Care Council (GSCC) which require all workers and their employers to abide by a Code of Conduct which describes a set of agreed codes of practice and conduct for registered social care workers and their employers.

It was these facts that gave me confidence and assurance that the States of Jersey really meant what they said; that they were committed to good child care practices.

During my interview for this post I raised my concerns about the terminology which had been used by Joe Kennedy (who was soon to become my line manager) and his line manager, Phil Dennett, during my visit to the Greenfields Centre that morning. The terminology which disturbed me was children’s bedrooms being referred to as “cells”. I told them that I was uncomfortable with these terms being used in secure children’s home and stated that I would prefer to call them “bedrooms”.

During my visit the children had also been referred to as ‘Inmates’ and the living areas had been referred to as ‘Association’. Anyone who has ever worked at a prison or visited one will recognise that this is prison terminology and I strongly believe that this has no place in a secure children’s home. Remember, none of these children were sentenced to custody; none were there because they had been convicted of a criminal offence.
It was also at the interview stage that I first heard of the ‘Grand Prix’ system, which I will cover in more detail later.

I was formally offered the post on 13 March 2006 and I relocated to Jersey with my wife and young daughter in July 2006.

When I started work in August 2006 I met the staff. The vast majority were great, in fact really great, they were enthusiastic, capable and very genuine people. As with all places of work however, there were also some which were more suited to working somewhere else, more specifically, somewhere else where they were not tasked with caring for vulnerable children. Luckily there were only a few of these.

It did not take me long to realise that the States of Jersey’s had an odd view of what constituted good child care. My concerns were first raised when I reviewed the care status of the children in residence at the time. There was one resident that I was confused as to their legal status. They were not there on Remand, nor were they subject to a Secure Accommodation Order; these being the only two legal routes into Greenfields.

After some probing questions I leant that this child was subject to a Community Order (a non custodial sentence for a criminal offence) a requirement of this Order included a residency requirement (a requirement imposed to reduce the risk of re-offending such as residing with a family member or a specific children’s home). Having previously worked in a Youth Offending Team for two years in the UK I was well aware of such requirements, however, this one was different. This residency requirement was at Greenfields a secure children's home; a requirement which was clearly designed to remove the child’s liberty and keep them in a custodial setting.

I later learnt that this was considered a positive choice by the States of Jersey as the child had previously been sentenced to La Moye, the adult prison. Given their age it was considered as inappropriate so the custodial sentence had been quashed. A sensible choice in my view. The decision to remove them from La Moye was good, the decision to remove their liberty with a residency requirement as part of a Community Order was illegal. The European Convention on Human Rights does not allow someone's liberty to be taken away without a lawful Order, and certainly not becasue a country has decided not to invest in adequate care provisions for its young and vulnerable children.

This is just one example of the poor and often unlawful practice which the States of Jersey is responsible for, practices which I soon realised were long standing in relation to their provision of social services and child protection systems.

It was in the first few weeks of working for the States of Jersey that I also came to understand the reality of the Grand Prix system. A system which was designed to ensure compliance of children through a fear of the consequences it so clearly represented.

It is this policy that I would like to consider more at this stage. I will go into more detail once readers have had a chance to read , digest and reflect upon it. The States of Jersey will, and have previously, argued that the policy represents the system in its ‘darkest light’ and in reality it did not keep children in solitary confinement as the policy suggests. We will consider this point further in later blogs, but first read it and offer your comments as you see fit.

I have attached some of the pages from the Grand Prix System in this blog and due to restrictions on size, I have opened another blog called, Grand Prix System Continued, where I have attachd the rest of the policy document which I photocopied in my final days at the Greenfields Centre. This is the same copy which was given to senior civil servants, the Jersey Employment Tribunal and to the media.