The final report by the Panel of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry into the abuse of children in the Island's care system spanning 7 decades - from 1945 to the present day - was published on 3 July 2017. The report is extensive and harrowing as it recounts the abuses many children have suffered during that period.
The report contains 8 recommendations which BASW fully endorses. Many of the survivors were fearful that the report itself may attempt to cover up what has taken place but it is emphatic that the attribution of responsibility lies with the States of Jersey. There are several references in the report to the ‘Jersey Way’; while this has positive interpretations relating to pride and belonging, in the context of this Inquiry the authors maintain that this was at the heart of the problem given that it was associated with justifying the ‘protection of powerful interests and resistance to change, even when change is patently needed’. Subsequently, there was a culture of fear as the powers that be did all that they could to protect the establishment making it almost impossible for anyone to speak out, least of all children.
Inspection systems were almost non-existent; archaic, institutionalised practices were allowed to continue and staff were under-trained.
While the critique of the care system over decades is powerful and convincing, BASW notes that, in common with other abuse inquiries, there is a lack of exploration of networks and individuals that may have perpetrated abuse across and within institutions, and whether these were protected by powers that be. This leaves questions unanswered by this report into the events in Jersey over many years.
Haut de la Garenne, which has become synonymous with the Inquiry, is referred to in the report as a ‘symbol of the turmoil and trauma’. The report calls for consideration to be given to demolishing the building given the distress it has caused to so many and its very existence is a reminder of that. However, some of those seeking justice for historical abuse across the UK have pointed out this could destroy evidence and the chance of justice.
With these caveats, BASW commends the work of the Panel for producing this final report of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry. Dr Ruth Allen (BASW CEO) states ‘that the inquiry has been both credible and robust in getting to the heart of systemic issues that have blighted the lives of children in Jersey’s care over such a long period of time. BASW hopes that these recommendations will be fully implemented by the States of Jersey and set in train both effective and lasting change providing the highest quality care to Jersey’s children confining what has taken place to a place in history. We also hope that all those still seeking justice can have their stories heard.’