This section of the website is aimed at parents, carers, child-care groups or organisations, groups/organisations involved with adults with learning disability.It is intended to enable parents/carers to ask questions and make informed choices as well as helping organisations put proper child protection structures in place.

Reporting Child Protection Concerns

The Department is often the first place that people contact when they have concerns or allegations about children being abused.

However, the Department does not investigate individual cases.

These investigations are carried out by the relevant Health and Social Care Trust.

If you have any concerns about children being abused, or harmed in any way, you should, report these immediately to the relevant Health and Social Care Trust for further investigation.

Contact details for Health and Social Care Trusts are available on the Department website.

Alternatively you can contact the NSPCC's free and confidential 24 hour helpline service on 0808 800 5000 or you can contact the The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). In an emergency dial 999 / Non-emergency calls and general enquiries dial 101 (if you are a Tesco mobile or giffgaff user call 028 9065 0222).

Guidance on Information Sharing for Child Protection Purposes

Guidance on Information Sharing for Child Protection Purposes sets out high level principles and guidance that staff in HSCT children’s social services should follow when sharing information for child protection purposes. In keeping with the Department’s child safeguarding policy, Co-operating to Safeguard Children and Young People, this new guidance is complemented with regional procedural guidance and information sharing protocols developed by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) for its member agencies.  This guidance provides a framework for staff working in child protection to be able to confidently share information in a timely and effective way. 

Guidance on Information Sharing for Child Protection Purposes is available on the Department website.

Protecting unaccompanied children and child victims of human trafficking and modern slavery

An unaccompanied child is a person under the age of 18 who has been separated from both parents and other relatives and is not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so.  The following guidance has been developed by the Health and Social Care Board, in consultation with the Department of Health, to provide information on the arrangements in place to identify and support unaccompanied children in Northern Ireland, and ensure that their needs are met.

Human trafficking is an offence.  It involves arranging or facilitating the travel of another person with the intention of them being exploited. Modern slavery is an umbrella term used to describe slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. The Health and Social Care Board and the Police Service for Northern Ireland have developed the following guidance to provide information on the arrangements in place to identify and support child victims and potential victims of these offences.

Internet Safety

The Internet has proved a useful tool for people intent on exploiting children and young people. As high profile cases in the news have revealed, Internet chat rooms can be used by paedophiles to establish deceptive and exploitative relationships with children and young people. They then “groom” children and young people with the intention of exploiting them, either on the Internet itself, or by arranging to actually meet with them in person. Often victims of such exploitation believe that they are chatting to other children or young people on line.

The Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI)

The Safeguarding Board (Northern Ireland) Act 2011 (‘the Act’) was passed in February 2011.

The Act provides the legislative framework for the creation of a regional Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI).

It also provides for the establishment of Safeguarding Panels, which  supports the work of the SBNI.

The SBNI was established in September 2012:

The SBNI replaced the Regional Child Protection Committee (RCPC) which was in operation from November 2009.

The RCPC and its predecessor bodies (the four Area Child Protection Committees which were aligned to former Health and Social Services Boards) were responsible for promoting inter-agency work to protect children and to monitor and evaluate how well child protection services were working.

Local Safeguarding Panels, which are independently chaired Committees of the SBNI, replace the Health and Social Care Trust Child Protection Panels which facilitated child protection practice at a local level.

Targeted Consultation - the draft Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (Membership, Procedure, Functions and Committee) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

A targeted consultation on the draft Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (Membership, Procedure, Functions and Committee) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011, aimed at a range of statutory and voluntary sector agencies that deliver services to children and families, was carried out from 16 November 2011 - 30 December 2011.

The targeted consultation sought the views of a range of key stakeholders many of whom had been involved in the Reference Groups which contributed to the development of the Act and the drafting of the Regulations.

Outcome of Targeted Consultation - the draft Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) Membership, Procedure, Functions and Committee Regulations

Twenty seven responses were received from a range of organisations. There was general agreement with the Regulations as drafted.

A number of issues were raised which will be taken forward in Departmental guidance for the SBNI.

Targeted Consultation - Proposed Amendment to the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (Membership, Procedure, Functions and Committee) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

On 11 July 2014, the Department issued a Targeted Consultation on the proposed amendments to Regulation 3 (Membership), Paragraph 8 of Schedule 1 and Paragraph 7 of Schedules 3 and 5 (Quorum) of The Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (Membership, Procedure, Functions and Committee) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

This Targeted Consultation closed on 21 August 2014.

Guidance for Day Care Providers

Guidance on the Handling of AccessNI Disclosure Certificates for Day Care Providers

Following discussions between the Department, the Health and Social Care Board and AccessNI, it has been agreed that owners of Day Care Providers are no longer required to share blank AccessNI Disclosure Certificates for their employers with Early Years Teams.

In order to provide assurance that all appropriate checks are being made into employees of day care providers, a notification form has been developed.

Marshall Report into Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland - Report of the Independent Inquiry conducted by Kathleen Marshall

In September 2013, the Minister for Health with the support of the Ministers of Justice and Education, established an independent, expert-led inquiry into CSE in Northern Ireland.

On 5 November 2013, Kathleen Marshall, former Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland, was appointed to lead the Inquiry.

The Inquiry focused on both children and young people living at home in the community and those living in care.

Publication of the report

The Marshall Report – the report of the inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland was published on 18 November 2014.

The Inquiry made 17 key recommendations and a further 60 supporting recommendations.

Nine of the key recommendations and 29 supporting recommendations are for Health and Social Care.

The remainder are for the Departments of Education and Justice, schools, PSNI, the PPS, RQIA and the SBNI. 

CSE Structures for Implementation

Health and Social Care (HSC) Response Team

The HSC CSE Response Team, led by this Department, is made up of senior representatives of the HSC Board, the Public Health Agency and each of the five HSC Trusts.

The Response Team will oversee the development and implementation of an action plan to deliver all of the accepted Marshall recommendations.

The Response Team has considered the relevant HSC recommendation and determined they all should be accepted.

Health and Social Care Implementation Group

A HSC CSE Implementation Group has been established to oversee the development and implementation of HSC recommendations.

It is made up of representatives of the HSCB, Public Health Agency (PHA), and each of the five HSC Trusts.

Senior Officials Group

A Senior Officials group has been established. DoH, DOJ and DE is represented at Deputy Secretary level.

The aim of this group is to ensure that implementation of the Marshall recommendations is co-ordinated across all three departments and ALBS/Agencies of those departments.

Cross Departmental Working Group

This group is made up of officials from DoH, DOJ and DE. They are tasked with representing the views of their respective departments in the consideration and implementation of the cross-departmental Marshall recommendations.

Implementation/Action Plans

A costed implementation plan was developed by the HSC Implementation Group in March 2015.  It sets out how, by when and by whom each of the Marshall recommendations relating to the HSC will be delivered.

In addition, DoJ and DE also produced action plans outlining how recommendations for these departments will be implemented.  

A cross-departmental implementation plan has also been developed by DoH, DE and DoJ for those recommendations which cut across the three departments.

A Composite Implementation Plan has also been produced.

This Composite Implementation Plan shows all of the recommendations in the order of the Marshall report.

Progress Reports

Composite CSE Implementation Plan progress reports document progress on all of the recommendations in the Marshall report for DHSSPS, DOJ, DE and their respective bodies and agencies.

HSC Marshall Implementation Plan Progress Reports show all of the recommendations in the order of the Marshall Report. Actions listed reflect the position at the publication of individual department’s reports.

The recommendations were accepted fully or in part. Individual Progress reports and a composite progress report will be produced and published at six monthly intervals by all three departments.

DoJ and DE have also produced progress reports for the period 1st April 2015 to 30th September 2015 and 1 October 2015 to 30 June 2016.

DoJ Progress 1st Report
DE Progress 1st Report
DoJ 2nd Progress Report
DE 2nd Progress Report

Understanding the Needs of Children in Northern Ireland (UNOCINI) 

The UNOCINI framework provides guidance to support staff to better understand and meet the needs of children and their families through a comprehensive process for assessment leading to action. Additionally it also provides guidance about when and how to refer a child to children’s social services when it has been assessed that their needs warrant this.


Related to Child protection

Access to information

How to request information from the Department of Health including Freedom of Information, information about yourself and the type of information we commit to publish on a regular basis. More...

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