Department welcomes Children’s Social Care Services review report

Date published: 21 June 2023

The Department of Health welcomes the publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services report.

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The independent review, commissioned by the former Health Minister Robin Swann, has reported its recommendations on how children’s social care services in Northern Ireland should be reshaped.

Professor Ray Jones, who headed up the review, has put forward a total of 53 recommendations and made a number of reflections in his report. His reflections include the uniqueness of Northern Ireland in relation to the history of the Troubles and the associated trauma. He also highlighted that demand for children’s services in Northern Ireland is proportionally greater than in other parts of the UK.

In addressing these reflections, Professor Jones’ key recommendations include the establishment of a region-wide organisation for children’s social care services with the capacity to draw in the services of other agencies and the appointment of a Minister for Children. Other recommendations consist of the development and deployment of multi-agency front-line teams and services and measures to address workforce challenges within Children’s Social Care Services.

Permanent Secretary Peter May said: “The Department clearly recognises that there are challenges within children’s social care services in Northern Ireland and commissioned this comprehensive review so that system improvements could be identified. We fully accept that change is necessary if we are to meet the ever-increasing demand for children’s services in Northern Ireland and ensure that children and families get the help they need, when they need it.

“I want to acknowledge the contribution of all those who work to support children, young people and their families in Northern Ireland every day. I am pleased that Professor Jones has highlighted many examples of the impressive services delivered by our skilled and committed teams.

“In relation to some of the report’s recommendations, the Department has commenced work to address the challenges facing our workforce. In March 2022, we completed a review of the social work workforce and established a workforce reform board. A priority for the board has been the stabilisation of the children’s services workforce and I am pleased that significant progress in this area has been made. Trusts are on target to end the use of agency social workers by the end of this month. A move that will support our key aim of stabilising our social work workforce and bringing about service improvements.

“The other key recommendations from this review will require significant service changes, and in some cases cut across a number of government departments. Therefore, these are decisions that will need to be considered by a Minister and an Executive. In the meantime, my Department will undertake a public consultation on the organisational and service changes recommended, and make the necessary preparations for an incoming Minister.”

In conclusion, Mr May acknowledged all those who contributed to the review process, saying: “This report is the culmination of a 16-month period of work by Professor Ray Jones and the Advisory Panel - Professor Pat Dolan, Marie Roulston and Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth. I want to thank them for their work and the significant engagement they have undertaken to produce it. I would also like to record my thanks to all of the young people, parents and carers who engaged, contributed to, and shared their lived experiences with the Review Team – your insights have been invaluable. Finally, I am grateful to all those who work in our Trusts and across the community and voluntary sector who contributed their expertise and shared their experiences throughout the process.”

Notes to editors: 

1. The report will be available on the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services website on Wednesday 21 June 2023.

2. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services NI commenced in February 2022. The Review has been led by Professor Ray Jones, Emeritus Professor of Social Work at Kingston University and St George’s University of London. Professor Jones has been assisted by an Advisory Panel which includes Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement; Marie Roulston O.B.E, former Director of Social Work at the Northern HSC Trust and Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth, a Deputy High Court Judge who had previously served as an Advisory Panel member on the Gillen Review of Family and Civil Justice.

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