Welcome to our June newsletter which provides an update on the progress of the work of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services (the Review).
Throughout the month of June, Professor Ray Jones, Lead Reviewer, continued with his programme of visits and meetings with individuals and organisations involved in children’s services. Professor Jones, accompanied by Marie Roulston, Advisory Panel Member, visited the Iveagh Centre and Beechcroft Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit, where they met with frontline staff and young people.
Professor Jones met with Department of Health family and childcare policy leads, Strategic Planning and Performance Group commissioning leads, the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership Southern Outcomes Group; the British Association of Social Workers - Northern Ireland (BASWNI), Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) social work members, and attended a meeting of the Safeguarding Board for NI (SBNI). He spent a full day with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Gateway Team and an evening with the Regional Emergency Social Work Service to observe services in operation. Professor Jones also met with Judges from the Family Courts and representatives from the Children’s Law Centre.
Discussions have taken place with Joke Wiggerink, CEO – Elia; Licensed Signs of Safety Trainer and Consultant, and Fiona Duncan, the Lead Independent Reviewer of Scotland’s Children’s Social Care Review. Professor Jones also met with primary school head teachers and he attended a meeting of the VOYPIC Experts by Experience Reference Group and also met with young people at Barnardo’s where they shared their Manifesto “What About Us”.
CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE (update provided by VOYPIC)
On 22 April 2022, two representatives from the Experts by Experience (EBE) Reference Group represented their peers at a meeting of the Advisory Panel. They discussed the group’s ideas on what the Independent Lead Reviewer and the Advisory Group should prioritise in their considerations, and their hopes for what the review should achieve.
The EBE Reference Group held two online preparation meetings in early May, to start considerations of the main issues the Review should focus on. These issues formed the basis for the EBE Reference Group meeting held in Belfast on 23 May, where participants looked at the issues in more detail, and in relation to their personal experience of the services.
An EBE Reference Group meeting was held on 9 June in Belfast, attended by Professor Ray Jones, Lead Reviewer, Marie Roulston, a member of the Advisory Panel and Máire Redmond, head of the Review Secretariat. The young people engaged with the Review Team members, discussing their experiences and their hopes for the Review. The young people also shared their desire to work together to tease out solutions to the issues raised.
Three new young people joined the EBE Reference Group at this meeting, adding experience of physical and sensory disability services. The addition of these young people ensures the Group now has representatives with experiences of all services forming part of the Review.
On 10 June, another two young people represented the Group to the Advisory Panel, sharing their personal experiences and representing the views of their peers.
Over the summer, VOYPIC will be organising several workshops, ensuring a wider group of young people can have their views heard. These engagement workshops will include theme discussion for:
- Younger children (under 14);
- Care experienced adults;
- Care experienced parents;
- Youth carers;
- VOYPIC staff; and
- Open session (aimed, in the first instance, at young people who did not get a place on the EBE Reference Group).
Pictures of the EBE Reference Group on 9 June 2022:
PARENTS AND CARERS (update provided by CiNI)
The team at Children in Northern Ireland have begun the process of direct engagement with parents and carers of children who have been involved in social care services. We have met with groups of parents face to face, and online, as well as having individual interviews.
While many parents have highlighted problems and very negative experiences, we have also heard from parents who have more positive reflections. Parents have told us of social workers who have gone the extra mile to support them and their children; of voluntary sector organisations that have given them effective specialist support; and Trust based dedicated projects that have helped them to turn their lives around.
In our May newsletter, we set out the intention to hold workshops focusing on key themes and issues, which are being identified through the Review. We are now beginning to plan the following themed workshops, with the first potentially being scheduled for early September 2022:
- Children and young people with disabilities;
- Children and young people who are care experienced, including foster care and children’s homes;
- Kinship Care;
- Organisational /structural arrangements; and
- Social work practice and the workforce.
The workshops will be attended by a wide range of those working within and with children’s social care services and there will be opportunities at each of the workshops to engage with and hear from children, young people, parents and carers regarding their experiences of service. The intention is to explore in more detail the issues which are enraging through the Review.
HAZELWOOD INTEGRATED COLLEGE
Professor Jones had the joy and privilege, when visiting Hazelwood Integrated College, of meeting impressive care-experienced young people who are students at the school, and the school’s principal and social worker. He also met the recently appointed head girl who was inspirational.
Since his visit Professor Jones has learned about their recent achievement of the college being awarded Secondary School of the Year at the TES School Awards, competing with schools across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Professor Jones has conveyed his congratulations to the school principal on the college’s amazing achievement stating:
“WELL DONE to you and to all of your students and colleagues for creating and being the BEST secondary school in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. That’s a heck of a lot of schools to top.”
CONTACTING THE REVIEW
If you wish to get in touch with the Review, you can contact the Review Secretariat team through the Review’s website, accessed here. The website provides information about the Review, how to contact us, key documents and latest news. The Review website will serve as a platform to connect with you and to seek your views. The Review’s Twitter account is now up and running, you can follow us here for more updates on the work of the Review.