First joint pilot inspection of child protection arrangements published

A joint pilot inspection of Child Protection Arrangements in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (the Southern Trust) area has looked at how justice, health and social care and education organisations work together to protect children where there are concerns about risk of harm.
The inspection was carried out by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI), the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).
Inspectors looked at the point of referral or ‘front door’ when children aged 12 to 17 years of age were identified as being at risk of harm or in need of protection within the Southern Trust area.
“Each Inspectorate has different legislative powers and working practices, and we were conscious of the pressures on front line services, but we were committed to completing this pilot inspection together.  We took time to carefully plan how we would work together to gather and assess evidence to inform our findings and this joint report,” said CJI Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin.
During fieldwork Inspectors visited policing teams, social work and health care teams, including a hospital Emergency Department, and schools and looked at the response provided under the three strands of Promote, Prevent and Protect. 

Inspectors also spoke to staff working in each organisation and setting and looked at information and data to identify strengths in the current multi-agency arrangements and opportunities for development that could enhance partnership working and improve outcomes for children.
“The joint inspection team identified that when the threat of harm was acute, there was evidence that risk was identified in a timely way.  We also found there was a strong culture of promoting the child’s right to be safe among the professionals we talked to,” explained Ms Durkin.
While there is much to be encouraged by, especially the commitment of and contribution made by dedicated individual staff in the context of significant resource pressures, as a result of this joint pilot inspection the Inspection Team have identified a number of areas for development.
Inspectors recommend that more opportunities are needed for police officers, health and social care staff and teaching and other education staff working in child protection roles to undertake multi-disciplinary training to enable them to learn and develop skills together. 

These opportunities would enhance understanding and clarity about each other’s roles and develop clearer expectations and knowledge of the systems and processes in place so justice, health and social care and education can effectively work together to progress referrals, safeguarding and protection issues.
Inspectors have also encouraged the inspected organisations and professionals working in this area to consider how they could work better together to improve the response to children and better evidence the voice of the child in the assessment and planning undertaken on what should happen to each child.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland, Education Authority and the Southern Trust have also been asked to develop a multi-agency action plan for implementation to enhance their partnership approach to protecting children.
Ms Durkin said each Inspectorate would encourage other health and social care trust areas, police districts and education settings to consider and use the findings of and recommendations from the pilot inspection, to improve how children are protected elsewhere in Northern Ireland.
“We also want the learning from this pilot inspection to inform a future child protection inspection framework for Northern Ireland being developed by the Departments of Health, Justice and Education,” she added.