April 2022 Newsletter

This is the second newsletter in the series to provide an update on the progress of work on the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services (the Review). In the March newsletter, we outlined that the Review which commenced on 1 February 2022 is being undertaken over a 12 month period by Professor Jones who is assisted by an Advisory Panel which includes:

  • Marie Roulston M.A. CQSW, O.B.E., Advisory Panel Member;
  • Professor Pat Dolan, Advisory Panel Member;
  • Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth, Advisory Panel Member; and
  • Two Young People and two Parents/Family Carers who will attend and participate within each Advisory Panel meeting.

Programme of Engagement

Since the beginning of February, Professor Jones has undertaken a series of engagement events, meetings and visits with a range of social care partners and agencies across Northern Ireland.  The programme has included meetings and visits to four of the Health and Social Care Trusts where Professor Jones met with senior management and frontline social care teams and individuals who deliver services.  As part of the programme in each Trust visited so far, Professor Jones has had an opportunity to visit children’s homes and meet with and hear directly from some of the children and young people.  Professor Jones has also visited and met management, staff and young people in Lakewood Secure Care Centre and Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre.

During February, March and April, initial meetings have taken place with the NI Children’s Commissioner (NICCY), Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), the Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Board (SBNI), the Health Minister, the Public Health Agency (PHA) the NI Guardian Ad Litem Agency (NIGALA), NI Social Care Council (NISCC) and representatives of the Fostering Network. Initial meetings have also taken place with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), NI Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) and the Public Service Union UNISON.

Engagement with Children, Young People, Parents and Carers is central to the Review. Professor Jones has had some initial engagement with a small number of parents and carers in the early months of the Review. The engagement and involvement of Children, Young People, Parents and Carers will feature prominently going forward with representatives participating in meetings with the Review Team as Advisory Panel Members.

Two Children and Young People and two Parents and Carers participated in the Review Team meeting on the 22 April 2022 and this participation will continue for future meetings of the Review Team with different representatives attending each meeting.

Children and Young People (update provided by VOYPIC)

VOYPIC launched a recruitment campaign for the Experts by Experience (EBE) Reference Group in January, following the announcement of the Review. Promotional material was distributed widely across the statutory and voluntary children’s sector, with expressions of interest invited from young people aged 14-25 years old, with lived experience of at least one of the services being considered by the Review. An online information session was held in February, providing a space for interested young people to find out more about the opportunity to participate and to ask any questions about involvement they had.

Applications were received from young people from across Northern Ireland representing a wide range of experiences of different children’s services. Following a screening exercise, and uptake of references, a number of young people were invited to join the EBE Reference Group. For those young people not selected to be part of the group, VOYPIC has committed to hosting a range of open activities and events, to ensure that young people are supported to have their voice heard in the review process.

The first meeting of the EBE Reference Group was held on Saturday 2 April at The Jungle NI, Magherafelt. This full-day meeting was designed as a team-building day, providing the young people with the opportunity to meet the other members of the EBE Reference Group and the VOYPIC staff who will be supporting them throughout the process. The meeting also gave the new members an opportunity to discuss their views on what the Independent Lead Reviewer and the Advisory Panel should prioritise in their considerations, and explore their hopes for what the review should achieve. The group also selected the first two young people to participate in the first Advisory Group meeting.

Parents and Carers (update provided by CiNI)

Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI) is delighted to support the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services in hearing the views, experiences and ideas of parents and carers. CiNI are convinced that listening to the lived experience of parents and carers will greatly enhance the work of Professor Jones and his team.

CiNI are keen to engage with parents and carers with a wide range of experience.  So far, they have been in touch with groups including parents whose children are in residential care, long-term care, or have been returned home from care.  CiNI will be talking to kinship carers, adoptive parents and separated Dads who are involved in court proceedings.

CiNI are arranging to meet parents and carers of children with a range of disabilities, from all parts of Northern Ireland. They will also be engaging newcomer families and those impacted by prison and violence in the home.

CiNI are really pleased with the variety of groups and individuals who have been in touch to find out how they can be involved in sharing their experiences and opinions.

They plan to run focus groups across the region and have designed sessions that will support parents/carers to reflect on both positive and negative aspects of their experience, and then to draw these together to identify practical things that can be done to improve things. CiNI will be analysing the emerging themes to share with Professor Jones, who plans to attend some of the group sessions to hear directly from parents/carers.

CiNI piloted their focus group design at the end of March and are looking forward to beginning direct engagement with groups. 

Social Care Works, Services and Partners

Over the coming months Professor Jones will continue to visit services across the region and meet with front-line practitioners, managers and senior leaders in Children’s Social Care Services. He will also be seeking to meet with, amongst others, teachers, health workers, police officers, and those working within Children’s Social Care Services provided by independent, voluntary and community services.

Professor Jones will also be engaging with Queen’s University and Ulster University Schools of Social Work, 3rd sector organisations / groups, education sector and the judiciary. Arrangements are also being made with the assistance of the Fostering Network for Professor Jones to meet with foster carers.

The programme of meetings and engagements will continue until February 2023 with more organisations, professionals, groups and individuals to be invited to participate in the Review and with workshops and seminars to be held in the autumn on themes and threads emerging within the Review.

Contact the Review

The Review Secretariat team is facilitating and arranging participation in the Review.  If you wish to get in touch with them they can be contacted on: Contact@CSCSReviewNI.net

You can also contact the Review Secretariat team through the Review’s website which is now live and can be accessed here. The website provides information about the Review, how to contact us, key documents and latest news.  The website will serve as a platform to connect with you and to seek your views. It is intended that there will be a range of ways in which to contribute to the Review and to share experiences and advice.