25th January, 2022 10:46 am
A REVIEW of children’s social care services in the north is to begin next month.
Northern Ireland has the highest number of young people in care since the introduction of the Children Order in 1995.
There has been a sharp increase since the start of the pandemic.
The Children Order was designed to support and protect young people to the highest extent possible.
The review will look at the support services for families, the care of children away from their families, and how the services are currently structured as well as looking at the support for staff.
Professor Ray Jones will be the independent lead reviewer assisted by an advisory panel.
Members include Judge Patricia Smyth, Prof Pat Dolan, and Marie Roulston, the former Director of Children’s services, along with young people and parents/carers with personal experience of children’s social care services.
Health Minister Robin Swann said it had been more than a decade since there has been a fundamental examination of children’s social care services.
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of such services and exposed a level of fragility within the system for the most vulnerable children and young people,” he said.
“The review will look at how we support families to keep their children safe and well-cared for and enable them to stay together, and where this is not possible the provision of alternative care.
“It will also examine how the current services are structured, managed and led and assess if we can do more. In addition, we need to ensure the staff providing front-line services are sufficiently supported and developed to deliver the best possible outcomes for children, young people, families and parents who need their help and support.”
Prof Jones said it was incumbent on everyone to nurture and develop children to enable them to flourish into adulthood.
“I took this role as the lead independent reviewer to help shape the services that may help deliver that ambition. To assist with the ambition of helping children to flourish I am donating my fee from this appointment to a university scholarship programme which helps children from care or disadvantaged backgrounds to go to university,” he said.
The review is expected to take 16 months to complete, starting in February 2022. It will engage throughout with parents; children and young people and with those working within and alongside children’s social care services.
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