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Safeguarding Boss Mark Owers Resigns

The government's Director of Safeguarding for children has quit days after a scathing report about Greenfields.

Mark Owers has resigned. 

The government released a short statement confirming his departure:

“Mark Owers has made a decision to leave his post as the Director of Safeguarding and Care in Children’s Social Care.” - Government spokesperson.

It is less than a week since we reported that a recent unannounced inspection of Greenfields secure unit found serious failings with staff numbers and training and the quality of leadership.  It was the second improvement notice in a matter of months.

The Jersey Care Commission has set urgent deadlines for improvements.

In response, the Children's Minister told Channel 103 services must improve - and quickly.

Deputy Scott Wickenden issued a statement, but we were told he was not available for interview on the issue.

"We have been open and transparent about the challenges that the Government of Jersey must overcome to keep children and staff safe, and to ensure we meet the needs of the young people in secure care. The safety of the young people in our care is paramount and we will ensure any repairs, highlighted in the report, are undertaken immediately."

The Children's Commissioner Deborah McMillan said the failings were highlighted by the Independent Care Inquiry five years ago.

"I'm really disappointed. This is the second Improvement Notice since November and we have to remember it's just five years since the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry pointed out exactly these issues and yet we're still seeing that the care, protection and support for children in care of the Minister is just not good enough."

Mr Owers, a social worker who grew up in Jersey, returned to the island in 2019 to take up the appointment.

At the time, he said his aim was to ensure all children benefit from a safe and happy childhood in Jersey.

The government didn't act on a recommendation in 2021 to close Greenfields as a secure home.

In an interview with Channel 103 in response to that recommendation, Mr Owers told Channel 103 that some children will have such pronounced needs that they'll need a safe and secure environment to thrive.

In a statement confirming his departure, Mr Owers says he's absolutely loved working for the service and he's proud of their many achievements together.

“I have absolutely loved working for the service and I am proud of our many achievements together.  It has been a real honour leading such a dedicated and committed group, that care so deeply for the Islands most vulnerable children and young people.”

He last spoke publicly on 15 March at a government-organised media event to mark World Social Work Day.  Despite repeated recruitment campaigns, the island continues to have a shortage and struggles to attract and retain staff.

Mr Owers spoke of the job being 'deeply challenging, particularly in an island setting'.

This is the second high-level resignation in the CYPES (Children, Young People, Education & Skills) department in the past six months.

Director General Mark Rogers left office at the end of 2021, with Rob Sainsbury taking temporary charge.

Channel 103 has asked for an interview with the Children and Education Minister.  We are awaiting a response.

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