Friday, March 30, 2012

A reminder that the Jersey child abuse scandal was well founded

You may recall the furore over the former Haute de la Garenne children's home on Jersey in 2008. The cellar and grounds were excavated amid stories that children had been murdered and buried there. When bodies refused to emerge, the press loss interest and decided that the stories of abuse were without foundation.

Yet today came news in the Guardian that:
Around 90 people who were sexually and physically abused by their carers in Jersey children's homes will receive compensation of up to £60,000 after the government in St Helier offered an "unreserved apology" to the victims. 
Announcing the launch of a "historic abuse redress scheme" on Thursday, Jersey's chief minister, Ian Gorst, acknowledged "that the care system that operated historically in the island of Jersey failed some children in the states' residential care in a serious way". 
At least 43 of the victims set to receive compensation were mistreated at the Haut de la Garenne care home.
As I wrote back in 2008, the most important question was that raised in the Daily Telegraph by Gordon Rayner:
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."

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