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NUI Galway Professor reviewing children’s social care services in Northern Ireland

NUI Galway Professor Pat Dolan has been appointed to a special panel to review children’s social care services in Northern Ireland.

Professor Dolan is Director of the Institute for Lifecourse and Society. He is also UNESCO Chair at the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway. He said a key part of the review will be listening to the voices of those with direct personal experience of the system.

Health Minister in the NI Executive Robin Swann MLA made the announcement, with the review to begin next month.

The panel will look at the support services for families and the care of children away from their families. This is in addition to how the services are currently structured, as well as looking at the support for staff.

Professor Dolan said: “The creation of this panel enables an important gateway to hear voices of parents and young people. This is with direct personal experience of social care services. It’s intended the review will lead to action in terms of better outcomes for service users and the professionals. These are the professionals who work with and for them. This is where families views are not just heard but acted on”.

Professor Ray Jones will be the independent lead reviewer assisted by an Advisory Panel, which includes Professor Dolan.

The other members of the Advisory Panel are Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth. This is as well as Marie Roulston, OBE (former Director of Children’s services). They will be along with young people and parents/carers with personal experience of children’s social care services.

The Children Order was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1995. It was designed to support and protect children to the highest extent possible. There are more children in care now than at any stage since the introduction of the Children Order. There has also been a sharp increase since the start of the pandemic.

The review will engage throughout with parents; children and young people and with those working within and alongside children’s social care services.

It is expected to run for 16 months.

Young people, parents and carers are being independently recruited and supported by the Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) and Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI).

The review will also look at:

  • How families are supported 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.
  • Also, how the current services are structured, managed and led.
  • Lastly, how front-line services are supported and developed to deliver the best possible outcomes for children, young people, families and parents who need their help and support.

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