Agency shake-up for Northern Ireland

The creation of multi-agency, interdisciplinary teams to assess and
investigate children’s welfare in Northern Ireland is likely to be
recommended by an inquiry into the current services.

The inquiry by the Northern Ireland assembly’s health, social
services and public safety committee is also set to call for the
development of a strategic plan for child protection.

Inquiry chairperson Joe Hendron revealed that he supported
recommendations for the establishment of review teams to examine
unexplained deaths of children and for area child protection
committees to be given statutory status.

“There has been a clear indication from the groups that have given
evidence to us of support for increased multi-agency working,” he

Hendron said the inquiry, expected to report in January, hoped to
reach an agreement with authorities in the Republic of Ireland on
the sharing of information from child protection and sex offenders’

The inquiry was ordered after a number of high-profile deaths of
babies and young children in Northern Ireland, particularly that of
Jasmine McGowan who died after being shaken in 1999.

During public hearings in the past two weeks, the inquiry has been
told that spending per capita on children’s services in Northern
Ireland in 2000-1 was £179 per child, £75 less than that
in England.

More than 16,000 children were referred to social services during
2000-1, a 23 per cent increase over a three-year period.

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