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Child Protection is a Cross border priority - Poots

Sharing invaluable learning’s for the protection and safeguarding of children is a cross border priority.
Wednesday, 1 May 2013

That was the message from Health Minister Edwin Poots along with Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), Republic of Ireland, who today addressed the first All Island Conference on child protection.

The conference, ‘Improving Child Protection Practice: Making the most of Opportunities and Overcoming Challenges’ was held under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) and was organised in co-operation by officials from both jurisdictions.

Minister Poots said: “It gives me great pleasure to open this All Island Child Protection Conference jointly with Minister Fitzgerald. I am certain that working together will assist to improve the outcomes for children in need and their families in a cross border context.

“This first All Island Child Protection Conference has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of our children and young people through improved learning and enhanced practice by our organisations and the professionals responsible for safeguarding our children.

“Our children’s welfare is paramount and it is only right that they receive the protection deserving to them. This conference is another step forward in helping both governments focus more closely on those children in greatest risk.”

The conference represents part of the ‘knowledge exchange’ element of the work programme, agreed in July 2012, in the area of child welfare and protection. It is aimed at improving cross border co-operation in this vitally important area through the use of research and evidence based practice.

The conference reflected on previous reviews and inquiries, highlighting the necessity to learn from experience and any failures identified in reviews, but also stressing the need to move forward by learning also from success.

Minister Fitzgerald: “I am delighted to be here for this All Island Conference as it provides a great opportunity for colleagues from the North and South to share experiences and learning with a view to further improving policy, legislative and service provision for the protection and safeguarding of our children into the future.

“As a society, our first task is keeping our children safe. It is only by understanding both the good and the bad, that we can improve our system and our practice to prevent further harm and protect our children.”

Notes to editors:

1. The NSMC was established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (1998), to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland - including through implementation on an all-island and cross-border basis - on matters of mutual interest and within the competence of the Administrations, North and South. The NSMC comprises Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government working together to take forward co-operation between both parts of the island to mutual benefit.

2. Officials from DHSSPS (NI) and the Dept of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (ROI) co-chair a cross-border group of officials to intensify co-operation on child protection. Officials initially established 5 Subgroups to take forward issues relating to vetting and barring; research and knowledge transfer; movement of children; media awareness; and internet safety. The sub-groups included representatives from relevant statutory and voluntary groups North and South.

3. Significant progress was made in each of 5 sub-group areas. It was agreed that since the work of the five sub-groups was largely completed these could be stood down and a new work programme developed. The group explored a number of areas of potential co-operation and recommended that a future programme of work be taken forward through five specific work streams focussing on: Knowledge exchange forum; Quality and Effectiveness; Deaths of Children in Care; Cultural Competence in Safeguarding; Specialist Services.

4. It is intended that the first work stream ‘Knowledge exchange forum’ will promote continued learning through use of research and evidence based practice and the first ‘product’ of this work stream is this ‘All-island Conference: Improving Child Protection Practice: Making the most of Opportunities and Overcoming Challenges.’

5. Media enquiries about this press release should be referred to DHSSPS press office on 028 9052 0575. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.