Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, has published updated policy guidance on ‘Co-operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland’.
The policy provides a regional framework for safeguarding children and young people in Northern Ireland encompassing the full range of promotion, prevention, early intervention and protection activity for the statutory, private, independent, community, charitable, faith and voluntary sectors.
Simon Hamilton said: “The majority of children in Northern Ireland are raised in homes where they are loved, nurtured and cared for. However, the experience of some children and young people can be very different. Harm to any child or young person resulting from abuse, exploitation or neglect is intolerable and that is the fundamental message which we need to get across.”
The policy makes it clear that all those who have contact with children and young people must understand their safeguarding responsibilities and organisations must ensure their staff and volunteers know how to recognise harm and when and how to take action to keep children and young people safe from harm and to promote their welfare.
The policy recognises that harm from abuse is not always straightforward to identify and a child or young person may experience more than one type of harm. It also recognises new or emerging child safeguarding challenges such as those associated with technological advances, sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation.
Minister Hamilton continued: “We can never become complacent in our efforts to safeguard children and young people. We continue to face new challenges, sometimes at an alarming rate and, unfortunately, perpetrators seek new ways to abuse children and young people.
“Also, those who perpetrate harm must face the consequences of the devastation they inflict. Keeping children safe requires partnership working within and across communities, organisations and sectors to ensure that perpetrators and offenders against children are brought to justice.”
While recognising that the child or young person’s safety and welfare is paramount, the policy highlights the right of children and young people to express their opinions have those opinions heard and acted upon, where appropriate.
The Minister concluded: “Everyone must play a part by being vigilant in making communities safe for our children and young people. If anyone has any concerns or suspicions that a child is being abused, I would urge that they report those concerns to the police or social services.”
All relevant documents are available on the DHSSPS website.
Notes to editors:
The policy has been updated to reflect changes in organisational structures and legislation since the publication of previous policy guidance in May 2003 and takes account of national and international developments in practice, policy and legislation.
The policy guidance emphasises the need for inter-agency working within and across disciplines, professions and sectors.
Development of the policy has been informed by input from key stakeholders from the health and social care, education, justice, community, charity, faith and voluntary sectors.
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