Ray Jones to lead Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in Northern Ireland

A review of children’s social care services in Northern Ireland will begin in February, headed up by Ray Jones, Emeritus Professor of Social Work at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London.

31/01/22

Ray Jones to lead Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann, has announced an independent review of children’s social care services in Northern Ireland.

The announcement follows the release of data which revealed that a sharp rise over the course of the pandemic meant the number of children in care in Northern Ireland had risen to its highest level since the introduction of the Children Order in 1995.

It has been more than a decade since the last fundamental examination of children’s social care services in Northern Ireland.

Explaining the need for the review, the Health Minister said: “The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of such services and exposed a level of fragility within the system for the most vulnerable children and young people.”

The review will look at the support services for families, the care of children away from their families, and how the services are currently structured as well as looking at the support for staff.

“A thorough examination of services will be undertaken and critically, children and young people, parents and front-line practitioners will be directly engaged and central to the Review.”

“The review will look at how we support families to keep their children safe and well-cared for and enable them to stay together, and where this is not possible the provision of alternative care. It will also examine how the current services are structured, managed and led and assess if we can do more,” Swann said.

“In addition, we need to ensure the staff providing front-line services are sufficiently supported and developed to deliver the best possible outcomes for children, young people, families and parents who need their help and support.”

Professor Ray Jones will be the independent lead reviewer assisted by an Advisory Panel. Jones is currently Emeritus Professor of Social Work at Kingston University, after a distinguished career as a social worker and director of social services. More recently, Jones has authored social work publications including ‘The Story of Baby P: Setting the Record Straight’ (Policy Press 2017), ‘In Whose Interest? The Privatisation of Child Protection and Social Work’ (Policy Press, 2019), and ‘A History of the Personal Social Services in England’. Jones has also been a vocal critic of the Care Review in England, voicing concerns over its independence and potential for further privatisation.

Joining Jones on the Advisory Panel are Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth, Professor Pat Dolan, and Marie Roulston OBE (former Director of Children’s services), alongside young people, parents, and carers with personal experience of children’s social care services. The young people, parents and carers are being independently recruited and supported by the Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) and Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI).

Professor Jones said he was “delighted” to lead the important review and that he would be donating his fee from the appointment to a university scholarship programme which helps children from care or disadvantaged backgrounds to go to university.

“It is incumbent on us all to care for, nurture and develop our children to enable them to flourish as children and then as adults. I took this role as the lead independent reviewer to help shape the services that may help deliver that ambition.”

The review is expected to take 16 months to complete, starting in February 2022. It will engage throughout with parents; children and young people and with those working within and alongside children’s social care services.

Read Professor Ray Jones's article in Social Work Today on the English Care Review's Case for Change: https://www.socialworktoday.co.uk/News/The-Case-for-Change-can-create-a-constructive-route-forward%2C-but-it-must-grasp-the-nettles

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