26/02/2009

Child Protection Fillip

News that over 70 new posts are to be created in Northern Ireland's social services is being hailed as a major move toward strengthening Northern Ireland's child protection measures.

NI Health Minister Michael McGimspey has announced a £3.3m investment in the Health and Social Care Trusts' Gateway and Family Intervention Teams which deal with vulnerable children referred to social services.

The new jobs will include 50 social workers while ten more will be dedicated to helping police gauge the risks posed by sex and violent offenders and a further 11 are to help ensure the continuing reform of child protection services.

The Minister said yesterday: "We all have a duty to ensure that our children receive the greatest level of protection possible.
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"Child protection services are undergoing a substantial programme of reform and the demands placed on family and childcare services have risen substantially."

Mr McGimpsey also said that since 2004 the number of children referred to Social Services has increased by 24% to 21,109 and outlined the need for child protection services to work in partnership with the Police.

He said: "I am funding a number of posts which will be used to pilot new closer working arrangements with the PSNI, improving the exchange of information and helping both workforces to learn and develop together."

The role of voluntary agencies like the NSPCC in protecting children and supporting families is also said to be "vital".

Commenting, the Director of NSPCC Northern Ireland, Martin Crummey said: "Child protection services have suffered from significant under-investment.

"I'm hopeful that this injection of additional cash will slow down the need for Trusts to achieve required savings from a very vulnerable voluntary sector," he commented.

(BMcC/JM)

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