CHILD PROTECTION:

THE STATES OF JERSEY

NARROWLY AVOID HUMILIATING THEMSELVES –

AGAIN.

This is just a brief post, to inform readers of the latest tortuous pitchings and yawings of the States of Jersey on its course towards – in theory – a dramatically better child protection system.

At least – that is the hoped and expected destination.

Can the government of Jersey get there?

Possibly – though understandably I have always had my grave doubts.

I often express my view that events in Jersey are so far-fetched as to be scarcely believable – yet, that is how things unfold here.

How many readers of this blog, I wonder, can be unaware of the Jersey Child Abuse Disaster? Of the dramatic scandals and world-wide media coverage which have arisen due to the decades-long failure of our oligarchy to protect children effectively?

Very few indeed, I would have thought.

So – even though most of my readers will not be politicians – let me ask you to conduct a simple thought-experiment – and imagine yourself to be a politician in Jersey; or, frankly, any other jurisdiction which has been confronted with decades of failure by its authorities to protect children from abuse.

Now – you are faced with the task of recognising, accepting – and endeavouring to change the failures of the past.

What, I ask, would your political response be?

Let me speculate as to how most rational people would respond.

You would firstly wish to fully grasp and understand what had gone wrong.

You would want to recognise and acknowledge the sufferings of the victims, and give them all necessary support.

You would want to understand just how these things were able to have happened – largely without detection or punishment – for all these decades.

You would want to ask some very serious questions of the political system of which you are a part – and, in particular, the supposed “professionals” who should have been protecting children.

You would want to know how they failed – and why they failed.

Why the children suffered.

In my speculations – all of the above responses would occur to the average person, and even politicians, because as we all know – those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.

So having undertaken the above-described, honest and responsible analysis – and having learnt the requisite lessons – you set about fixing the system.

You develop new systems, policies, safeguards, checks and balances.

Then having developed those new policies – to be doubly-certain of them – you subject them to detailed scrutiny – and refine them if necessary.

You then take those policies through the debating process of your legislature until the new policies are fully, democratically endorsed.

You then enact them – and subject them to a new regime of independent scrutiny, to ensure the system does not relapse into the failures of the past, and instead, develops and improves with time.

I cannot say what your conclusions would be after conducting the thought-experiment I suggested – but the above-described response would certainly be my way of confronting and dealing with the issues.

But, this is the States of Jersey we’re dealing with here.

A child “protection” catastrophe of global scale: States of Jersey’s response?

“Oh let’s just throw a load of money at the problem and it will go away.”

Though no matter how extraordinary it may seem – the States were planning to debate a demand for more public money to be spent in the area of child protection, seemingly as a cosmetic gesture – without any meaningful scrutiny of the questions posed above – whatsoever.

And not only an absence of formal scrutiny – but, extraordinarily, even an absence of parliamentary debate and approval for the supposedly wonderful “policy” drawn up upon the recommendations of Andrew Williamson.

The States Assembly never diminishes in its capacity to surprise me.

I was surprised that the current Council of Ministers could be so startlingly inept as to attempt to brush all of that necessary learning process under the carpet – given the inescapable seriousness of the situation.

I was – even more – surprised that the formal scrutiny system seemed determined to NOT scrutinise child protection.

And even more surprised that certain Sates members – who I thought better of – were content to proceed in that way.

Indeed, though I won’t embarrass them by mentioning their names – it has been remarked to me by several people that certain of the speeches made this Wednesday by non-establishment States members “could have come out of the mouth of Frank Walker.”

I genuinely wonder if the members concerned even begin to grasp the folly of their position?

But – I said the capacity of the States to surprise me never diminishes.

Occasionally, the Assembly gets it right.

Today, I secured a convincing vote to the effect that the whole child protection issue – and our policy responses to it – be fully scrutinised – and subjected to a States debate.

I did not expect to win the vote, but fortunately, the interests of the island’s children were put first.

But how can the Assembly have found itself in the position of having to insist that the new child protection policies will be scrutinised, refined and debated?

Having to argue for an informed debate on child protection policies – after all that has taken place?

God only knows.

I would like to thank the majority of my colleagues for recognising the folly of proceeding with the grossly premature, un-informed debate that we were being asked to engage in.

Instead – we’re going to do the job properly.

I hope.

Stuart.

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