Press Release

Hanafin tells Health Boards to meet their obligations to children in care

Minister Hanafin today (Friday 7/12/2001) welcomed the publication of the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) Annual Report 2001. She acknowledged the work carried out by the SSI since it was established in 1999 to ensure that the highest possible standards are in place for children in care.

Minister Hanafin said “It is through the inspection process that improved conditions will be put in place following the recommendations that the SSI make”.

The Minister stated that the work of the SSI was important in order to highlight areas where improvements were needed and also to allow those delivering the service to take credit for both successes and the hard work they undertake on a daily basis. “Children in care are our most vulnerable and the priority has to be to ensure their needs are met in a safe environment”. she said.

Positive Aspects

The Minister noted that the Annual Report contained a range of positive activities which were being undertaken in the centres concerned. These included:

  • the involvement of family members
  • the views of children being taken on board
  • the application of complaints procedures and the awareness of the children of these
  • education being pursued by the children in the centres. Concerns

The Minister was highly critical of the level of care planning provided by the health boards for children in residential care as highlighted by the SSI. This showed that only 56% of children have care plans. She said “care planning is an essential element in addressing the needs of a child in care and promoting their development. Without such a plan the child’s care lacks direction and focus and may mean that a child’s needs are not met and could remain in care for far too long. Health Boards have a statutory responsibility to provide care plans and after care and I expect them to fulfill their responsibilities”.

“Since 1997 the Government has put in place legislation, standards, strategies and policies. We have developed new structures and facilities, and have invested an extra £130m in revenue and capital in child welfare services. All of this is to allow the health boards to meet their responsibilities. I expect the health boards to meet their obligations also”. the Minister said.

An extra £37m will be spent on child welfare in 2002 but the Department will continue to monitor the use of funding allocated to the boards. “This is to ensure that the priorities, policies and services which have been set out are being addressed and implemented to the greatest extent possible”, she said.