Children's Services Co-operation Bill through the Northern Ireland Assembly

Posted by AfC Policy and campaigns / Wednesday 11 November 2015 / Law

Last week the Children's Services Co-operation Bill finally completed its passage through the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Bill is aimed at all children and young people in Northern Ireland who rely upon services which are provided by the Northern Ireland Executive.

Action for Children has been campaigning on the issue  for many years, and helped to draft some of the clauses within the Bill. So we are delighted to finally see the legislation pass.

We undertook a lot of work to help get the Bill passed.  We gave evidence to the Scrutiny Committee examining the Bill, met with key civil servants, and lobbied MLAs from each of the Executive parties.

Whilst this Bill will benefit all children and young people in Northern Ireland, it will particularly help children and young people in the care system, children and young people with disabilities, and, children and young people involved in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.

Children and young people in care  will have a tailored made plan made with them, involving the agencies responsible for their care and their transition on to other accommodation. Each of the separate authorities involved in the system will have to work together to ensure the best possible outcome for the child or young person.

Also, for disabled children, the various departments within the Northern Ireland Executive will have to work together to ensure they get the care, education, and access to services they need to ensure they can fulfil their potential; and play a full part in society.

"The passage of this Bill is fantastic news. It has the potential to transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in our society."

Action for Children Policy team

The Bill will place a duty on each of the departments within the Northern Ireland Executive to co-operate in a joined up, effective and coherent manner in the delivery of services to children in Northern Ireland.

At Action for Children have had many examples of our service users being let down because different departments within the Northern Ireland Executive had not communicated with one another. One example saw a young girl with special educational needs being unable to start school despite having a statement of special educational needs in place. The school she was due to attend was unaware that she had a statement  because the Department of Education and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety had not worked collaboratively with one another in the best interests of the child.

At Action for Children we are looking forward to seeing the positive effects of the Bill improve the lives of the very many children and young people who use our services.