4,000 children in Northern Ireland await social care services

Over 4,000 children in Northern Ireland are currently awaiting assessments and assistance from social care services, as revealed by a significant independent review.

The report highlighted a significantly higher referral rate for children in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

According to Prof Ray Jones, the review leader, there is a pressing urgency as “children have only one childhood, and time is running out.” Numerous children are facing waiting periods of over a year, with some enduring the longest wait exceeding two years.

Prof Jones further highlighted that a greater percentage of children in Northern Ireland are identified as needing assistance, have child protection plans, and a notable “record” number of children are in care.

The report presented 53 recommendations, emphasizing the urgent need for a significant overhaul of children’s social care services and a swift response to address the existing challenges. The Department of Health acknowledged the issues within the sector and fully acknowledged the necessity for change.

In 2022, former Health Minister Robin Swann appointed Prof Jones to conduct the review, prompted by concerns regarding the high staff vacancy rates and the inadequate support provided to many children and families in need.

One of the key recommendations put forward by Prof Jones was the establishment of a comprehensive regional organization to provide children’s social care services. This proposed organization would serve as a platform to address the critical issues that require immediate attention and resolution.

Josephine Dowell, 22, who grew up in foster care, acknowledged that the system can be challenging and feel unnatural. However, she is determined to make a difference and is currently pursuing a degree in social care, recognizing that there is more to prove and improvements to be made within the system.

As a part of the Voices of Young People in Care initiative, Josephine Dowell was interviewed by Prof Jones and has played a significant role in shaping many of the recommendations put forth in the review.

During an interview with BBC News NI, Josephine expressed her belief that the care system should provide positive support systems, such as a nurturing family, to assist individuals in navigating through challenging circumstances.

However, she highlighted the unjust reality that young people in care often face stigma and are burdened with the need to prove themselves further, which she considers to be unfair.


Source : bbc.com


By Ryan

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