Monday, March 10, 2008

Simon Bellwood & Haut de la Garenne Child Abuse Scandal

For those of you who are just dropping in on this story, Haut de la Garenne is not where this horror started. It's just the part of the story that's brought the most international media attention. So I thought we would step back a bit, to give you a wider picture of how some of this story unfolded.

It seems to us that Simon Bellwood was probably just one in a long line of people who tried to report to senior government officials about the child abuse occurring in Jersey's child welfare system.

Here is an excerpt of a statement by Simon Bellwood on Community Care's website, back in August of 2007, that indicates he first went on the record with his superiors about the abuse back in January, of 2007. Yep. That long ago.

My formal complaint involved compiling a letter into which I put a great deal of thought and time. I hand delivered it to the Chief Executive of Health and Social Services and to the Directorate Manager of Social Services. They independently reassured me, and even thanked me for having the courage to come forward with my concerns. For a moment I felt comforted. It seemed probable that my concerns would be investigated and that the truth would put an end to the punitive treatment of children and young people in secure accommodation in Jersey. After many months of waiting and isolation from the workplace, I received notification that “no evidence had been found” to support my allegations. I was dismissed from my post within a fortnight.

If this isn't the clearest evidence of a whistle blower being sacked for trying to bring this scandal to light, I don't know what is.

Bellwood goes onto say,

I followed the relevant appeals processes which eventually led me to the very top, in the form of Senator Syvret, Minister for Health and Social Services. As soon as he received my letter, Senator Syvret telephoned me to hear my side of the story. He felt that the investigations into my complaints did not withstand scrutiny and he called on his senior officers for more information. Senator Syvret made enquiries of his own into Jersey’s children’s services and he was not happy with what he found. A full-on political battle ensued, and now the Council of Ministers is attempting to sack Senator Syvret. I was worried that any chance of justice for Jersey’s looked after children would be buried in a complex – and very public – political wrangle which has clouded and confused the original issues.

Bellwood's fears at the time of his writing that Syvret would be "sacked" came to fruition. This is what happens to whistle blowers on Jersey. They try to silence them. How far reaching do the tentacles of corruption extend? When will the people of Jersey take action for true reform?

It is fortunate that Simon Bellwood and Stuart Syvret had the courage to bring the disaster of Jersey's child welfare system to light, and we commend them for placing themselves in the line of fire. It has had the added effect of pulling back the scab on the extensive cover-up in Jersey.

Senator Stuart Syvret's Blog