Saturday, March 01, 2008

Why were so many children in care on Jersey?

It is not just the political background to the Jersey scandal that needs to be understood. There is an economic background too.

When Ceaucescu's regime fell in Romania it was revealed that thousands of children were suffering in primitive orphanages. It took a while for people to ask why there were so many orphans there. When they did, it turned out that may of them were not orphans at all.

As an Observer article explained last year:
The dictatorship encouraged breeding to staff state-controlled industries. Contraception and abortion were not available. Parents travelling to towns to find work were forced to stay in dormitories and leave their children behind in state care. A 1954 law described children as the property of the state rather than of their families.

Ceausescu also had a fascist streak. Any child who was less than physically or mentally perfect was immediately taken away and put in a closed institution where they couldn't be seen. A hair lip brought a life sentence.
Equally, it has always concerned me that there is never any shortage of inmates at the Bonkers' Home for Well-Behaved Orphans. Is there something about Rutland that the old brute has not told me?

Writing in today's Daily Telegraph Gordon Rayner raises a similar question about Jersey
One more disturbing question presents itself in the light of the child abuse scandal: just why, on a such a small and supposedly idyllic island, did so many hundreds of children end up in care homes? 
The answer lies in another little-publicised fact about Jersey - its unexpectedly high level of poverty, which brings with it the sort of social problems that lead to children being taken into care. 
Although Jersey, with its £250 billion financial industry, has the second-highest gross domestic product per capita in Europe, the island's wealth is largely held by the privileged few. Some 13,000 people - more than one in seven - live in social rental properties, Jersey's equivalent of council houses, and half of all households suffer from one or more of the internationally recognised measures for relative poverty. 
The crumbling 1960s council estates of St Helier are testament to the years of neglect. Rusting cars rot on rubbish-strewn drives, windows have bedsheets for curtains and the paint is peeling off walls and doorframes. "This place is run by the finance industry for the finance industry," says one resident. "Anyone else just doesn't count."
Even if the eventual discoveries do not substantiate the most Grand Guignol aspects of the story we are being told at the moment, this week's events show the need for fundamental reform of the governance of the island.

Finally, three radical voices from Jersey:

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