Action for Children NI and leading children’s charities outline fundamental changes to reform children’s social care services

Thursday 09 November 2023
Small group o teenagers are talking to a mental health professional in a support group at the community centre

Now is the time to act.

A new report published today by a group of leading charities in Northern Ireland says that early intervention and listening to the voices of children and young people should be at the heart of children’s social care services.

The Reimagine Children’s Collective brings together Action for Children, Barnardo’s NI, Children in Northern Ireland, Include Youth, Mencap NI, National Children’s Bureau NI, Parenting NI, Save the Children and VOYPIC.

With 2,251 children and young people are waiting for an initial Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) assessment* and 4,000 families waiting for their case to be allocated in social care services, the need is urgent.**

The report, ‘Reimagining Children’s Social Care Services in Northern Ireland’, calls for a fundamental cultural shift that places the voices of children, young people, and their families at the centre of service provision.

It outlines actions that can be taken now to maximise current resources and capacity while also taking steps to build an infrastructure that adequately serves the needs presenting both now and into the future.

The report is inspired by a shared ambition for our children, and it highlights the importance and value of the community and voluntary sector in the development, implementation, and oversight of future services.

The report outlines a number of priorities and actions including:

  • Pay more attention and investment in early intervention and prevention;
  • Better use of the resources and workforce already in place;
  • Remove the two-child benefit cap;
  • Introduce a new child payment;
  • Develop co-designed, age-appropriate content to communicate with children and young people.

The report is in response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services in Northern Ireland, which was carried out by Professor Ray Jones, published earlier this year, and is now out for consultation from the Department of Health.

Michele Janes, Director of Barnardo’s NI and Chair of the Reimagine Children’s Collective said:

“We are ambitious for our children. We believe that Northern Ireland has the potential to develop and provide world class services to support children, young people, and families. The current system for delivering children’s social care services is not working. Now is the time to reimagine how we restructure and reform our children’s social care services and how we can all effectively collaborate to bring about positive and lasting change. The time to act is now.”

“As our report makes clear, we need to see a move away from the current crisis-based and protection-orientated services towards a greater focus on early family support. In order to do this, investment is needed to reset and refocus children’s social care services towards practical help and early family support. We recommend that funding for family support is ringfenced to ensure investment in early intervention is prioritised and protected.”

Lorna Ballard, National Director NI, Action for Children

Paula Rodgers from Include Youth added:

“Across Northern Ireland the Community and Voluntary Sector plays an essential role in the delivery of services for children and young people. Unfortunately, underinvestment and funding cuts have inflicted long term damage on these organisations, and ultimately, on the children that they are trying to support. To help address this problem, we would like to see longer term funding arrangements put in place that would offer greater stability and certainty to children, young people, their families, and the workforce.”

Professor Ray Jones, author of the Independent Review said:

“I welcome the publication of the Reimagine Children’s Collective’s report today. It is clear from the partnership work of the organisations involved that there is support across the sector for real change in how services are structured, planned, and delivered.

As organisations working in every community across Northern Ireland, group members see the value of early intervention and prevention, not only benefitting babies, children, young people, and their families every day, but also in supporting our public services and reduced spending in the long term.


Notes to editors:

*The Northern Ireland Review of Children’s Social Care Report – June 2023

**CAMHS Waiting Time Statistics for Northern Ireland – June 2023

The report will be launched on Thursday 9th November, at 10am, in the Long Gallery at Stormont. The event is sponsored by former Minister for Health, Robin Swann, MLA.

You can read the report here

You can read the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services in Northern Ireland carried out by Professor Ray Jones here

Department of Health’s Consultation here


Laura Holmes, NI Media Officer: 07815978444 / [email protected]

Out of hours: 020 3124 0661 / [email protected]

About Action for Children:

Action for Children protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives. With 447 services across the UK, in schools and online, in 2021/22 we helped 671,275 children, young people and families.