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Safeguarding Board Bill passes second stage


NI Executive

The creation of the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) took an important step forward today as the Bill passed its second stage in the Assembly.

The SBNI will replace the current Regional Child Protection Committee and will be sited within the Public Health Agency (PHA).

Five Safeguarding Panels, one located in each Health and Social Care Trust area, will also be established. Core membership will be from key agencies with statutory responsibility for safeguarding children including the police, health trusts, the probation board, district councils and education and library boards.

Social Services Minister, Michael McGimpsey said: “The Safeguarding Board Bill is a critical step in strengthening our current arrangements for inter-agency co-operation on protecting children.

“Today many agencies are working with families who very often are overwhelmed by difficulties such as financial problems; domestic or sexual violence; physical or mental health problems; or because of dependence on alcohol or other substances.

“The new Board will ensure there is a truly joined-up approach that is needed to tackle all of the factors that have an impact on children’s safety and welfare.”

In Northern Ireland, over 21,000 children are referred to social services in Northern Ireland every year. At any one point in time there are around 2,500 children in care and more than 2,000 children on the child protection register.

Continuing the Minister said: “These statistics however, only tell us part of the story of the numbers of families and children who need help and the help that they are getting.

“It is important that we invest in the future fabric of our society so that fewer families reach crisis point and fewer children suffer harm. This Bill supports the wider safeguarding agenda which includes prevention and early intervention.

“If we are serious about prevention and early intervention to protect children we have to prioritise services for them. That is why I have invested in this area as well as strengthening front line child protection services with the establishment of Gateway Teams in every Trust.”

Concluding the Minister said that there would be clear lines of accountability for the SBNI through to him and the Department and ultimately to the Executive. He said: “This line of accountability also brings the SBNI within the remit of the Assembly committee and makes it open to scrutiny by its members.



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