Swann outlines planned actions on children services

Date published: 18 October 2022

Health Minister Robin Swann has pledged to act on interim findings from the ongoing Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services.

latest doh news text on plain bacground
latest doh news text on plain bacground

Professor Ray Jones, who heads the review, is due to deliver his final report next summer. His interim findings identify two key recommendations that need immediate attention.

The first recommendation involves a package of measures to address the ongoing workforce challenges within Children’s Social Care Services, manifested currently by high rates of vacancy within social work teams.

The second recommendation relates to the establishment of a new regional Arms-Length Body (ALB) of the Department of Health with sole responsibility for children’s services. This body would replace the current model of delivery through the five Health and Social Care Trusts. It would have its own Chief Executive, local delivery bodies and a singular focus on Children’s Social Care Services. In Professor Jones’ view, this is necessary to ensure that children’s services receive the leadership and dedicated attention they require.

Professor Jones also suggests that a new children’s services ALB has the potential to include a wider range of services within its remit, including those which currently are the responsibility of other Departments, including the Departments of Justice and Education.

Welcoming the interim findings, Minister Swann said: “I recently met with Professor Jones and was updated on his findings at this stage of  this  extremely important independent Review. I very much welcome the concrete proposals he is making to improve services.

“Professor Jones, working with a panel of advisors, has undertaken a significant programme of engagement, involving senior leaders in Health and Social Care, front-line practitioners, children, families, carers and parents. Importantly, he has also engaged with other sectors and organisations, which interface with Children’s Social Care Services, including in education, justice and the community and voluntary sector.

“I have accepted Prof. Jones’ first recommendation and work has already started to address ongoing workforce challenges, including the cessation of the use of agency social workers within a specified timeframe.

“The Professor’s second recommendation is more far-reaching and would constitute a significant reform.

“Given the clear need for action, I have instructed my officials to develop an options appraisal for the future delivery of children’s social care services. This will include the option to establish a new ALB. I have asked for the detailed appraisal to be completed and ready within 3-4 months for submission to an Executive when formed. 

“I have written to Ministerial colleagues as a matter of urgency, appraising them of the recommendations and requesting the engagement of their officials in the development of the options paper to ensure that it is comprehensive.

“Action relating to workforce - that is clearly needed - is already being taken. We also need to make sure we get it right when introducing a major reform of this magnitude.”

Notes to editors: 

1. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services commenced in February 2022. The Review is to conclude and report in June 2023.

2. Further information including the Terms of Reference for the review, information on members of the Review Team, and monthly newsletters covering progress can be accessed on the Review’s website.

3. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk.

4. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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