Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Trouble in the Colonies...yes really, in 2016...

If you had forgotten that we had colonies and did not know that they were a dangerously dysfunctional check out this report by Sasha Wass QC re St Helena, our colony in the middle of the Atlantic.  Imagine if somebody wrote such a damning report about a community in mainland UK which has a population of 4,000.....Unsurprisingly this report came out on 10th December and a new Governor was announced on 20 January

The report is here but here is a taster...

” b. The administration of the St Helena Government and that of its departments have failed to establish management practices, procedures and guidelines to ensure safeguarding routines. c. There is a lack of continuity when managers are replaced. There is a failure of overlap on handovers or a failure to create best practice manuals to ensure that incomers learn from past experience and benefit from prior reports. d. Some of those responsible for directorial oversight were found to be inexperienced and ignorant of best practice. This has resulted in their inability to question front-line professional staff and hold them to account. e. The existence of previous reports and recommendations ought to provide a touchstone for newly arriving staff; instead, new recruits appear to be unaware of them. Consequently, lessons need to be relearned at regular intervals through the intervention of yet more costly investigations, studies, reports and inquiries. 14 The Wass Inquiry Report f. We saw one example of employment gaps in Social Services whereby the only qualified social worker on St Helena left her post in May 2012 and it was not until June 2012 that the St Helena Government even started advertising for qualified social workers to work on the island. Claire Gannon was appointed to take up the post in early 2013. St Helena Social Services had been without a qualified social worker on the island for a period of nine months. Claire Gannon was presented with a chaotic and unmanned Social Services Department on her arrival on St Helena. Her lack of recent experience in front-line social work meant that she found herself completely out of her depth. Although this cannot excuse the unprofessional behaviour she went on to exhibit, it should be recognised that Claire Gannon was not properly briefed for the task that confronted her when she arrived on St Helena in February 2013. 1.49 In addition to the systemic failings, the Inquiry did find that, during the current incumbent’s tenure, Governor Capes’ attention was specifically drawn to matters which required urgent consideration by an email from Viv Neary, the Child Protection Coordinator for British Overseas Territories, in March 2012. These included the lack of a formal arrangement for fostering children on the island; and the fact that the only qualified social worker was due to leave in May 2012 with no replacement ready to take over. 1.50 Neither of those two matters was resolved by the Governor, and his failure to heed the warnings given to him directly impacted on the complications that arose during the Child F adoption case in late 2013 and early 2014. The full facts of that case are addressed in Chapter 8. 1.51 The Inquiry Panel was disappointed to learn that one of the legitimate complaints made by former Police Constable Anderson in his letter of November 2012 remained unresolved at the time of the Inquiry Panel’s visit to St Helena in March 2015. Mr Anderson specifically complained about a case in which a sex offender had been convicted on Ascension Island and sentenced to a community order by the Ascension Island Magistrates’ Court. The man in question was deported to St Helena, where he breached the community order. He was brought before the same Chief Magistrate who had sentenced him and who was now presiding over the St Helena Magistrates’ Court. The legal position was that the St Helena Magistrates’ Court had no power to deal with the breach of a community order which had been imposed by the Ascension Island Magistrates’ Court. In giving his judgment in October 2012, the Chief Magistrate made it plain that this matter required urgent action and that the passing of an Ordinance would resolve the matter quickly. Despite the fact that former Police Constable Anderson had specifically drawn attention to this legal anomaly, the St Helena Government had failed to deal with it by March 2015, when the Inquiry Panel visited the island. We can find no excuse for this oversight.

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