Fighting for childhood in Northern Ireland How we're standing up for children

We’re making life better for children in Northern Ireland by influencing public policy, legislation and practice through our local evidence-based research and services.

We have well-established relationships working with the NI Assembly, government departments and colleagues in statutory and voluntary agencies to ensure that children can be protected and abuse prevented.

Our 3 service centres offer a range of services for children and families and we’re leading the way with our Young Witness Service. Through evaluating our services and conducting research we’re committed to finding out what’s working and – more importantly – what isn’t, and what we can do about it.

Northern Ireland

What we're calling for

We published How safe are our children? 2016 in June 2016. It is our fourth annual report compiling the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across each of the 4 nations in the UK.

Compiling this data is part of our commitment to evidence, to help us to understand the problems we are seeking to address.

We've analysed the data looking at how safe our children are in Northern Ireland and used this to shape our priorities. Read our policy calls below and our full Northern Ireland briefing (PDF).

There has been an increase in the reporting and recording of child abuse and neglect over the past 5 years. And while an increased confidence in confronting abuse should be welcomed, we must ensure that new government funding for therapeutic services is available to help abused children get back on track.

It is vital that the Department of Health improve early intervention where children have experienced trauma and prevent psychological distress from escalating into severe mental health issues. 

To ensure abused children receive appropriate therapeutic support we are urging the Northern Ireland Executive to:

  • commission a review into the availability and adequacy of therapeutic interventions for children who have been abused
  • collect regional data on the provision of therapeutic support for children who have been abused.

Find out more about our It’s Time campaign to make sure every child gets support after abuse.

MouseReports of online abuse have increased, including: a rise in the number of ChildLine counselling sessions about sexting and cyberbullying, an increase in the number of URLS containing child abuse images being identified and removed from the internet and a sharp increase in the number of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recorded obscene publication offences.

Understanding and responding to risk online is essential for those seeking to protect children.

The Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) e-safety strategy must strengthen the cross-governmental and multiagency response to keeping children safe online. Priority areas for the strategy should include:

  • increasing children’s ability to keep safe online through campaigns, tools and education
  • effective training for professionals to safeguard children at risk through online activity
  • increase parents’ knowledge and confidence to keep their children safe online through face to face workshops and awareness raising campaigns
  • appropriate support and protection for all children who have been negatively impacted by online activity, including sexual exploitation.

The number of looked-after children has been increasing year on year since 2010/11 and peaked this year with 2,875 looked after children in Northern Ireland at 31 March 2015.

Children in and on the edge of care and those who have left care need the best possible services and support to fulfil their potential and have the best future. Priority areas relating to looked after children should include:

  • greater urgency to modernise the legal framework for adoption in NI, to place children’s welfare at the centre of the adoption decision-making process
  • updating (i) Children Order guidance relating to looked after children and (ii) regulations relating to children in residential and foster care
  • agreed models of assessment for the reunification of children with home
  • ensuring children receive a quality mental health assessment on entry to care, have their mental health monitored throughout their time in care and receive support where necessary.

GavelChildren who experience the judicial process can find it a traumatising experience. The Victims and Witnesses Strategy (Department of Justice, 2015) has brought about a range of improvements for young victims and witnesses who have to give evidence in court – this includes the Young Witness Service  and the development of a Registered Intermediary Scheme.

To further build on policy and practice developments relating to young victims and witnesses in Northern Ireland, the Department of Justice should:

  • consider introducing a pilot study for pre-trial, pre-recorded cross examination to establish good practice
  • examine opportunities to establish effective cross border/ jurisdictional protocols for supporting young witnesses
  • explore the option of extending the provision of support at the point of interview/consultation.

Northern Ireland consultation responses

Our policy team in Northern Ireland respond to government consultations and write briefings to influence the development of policies and laws that affect children and young people. Below are the most recent government consultations we've responded to.

Statistics on child protection in Northern Ireland

Official statistics help tell us how many children have been identified as needing support or protection in Northern Ireland.

See the statistics

How child protection works in Northern Ireland

Find out how the systems and laws of Northern Ireland work to help keep children safe from abuse and harm.

Find out more

Our research and resources

Children’s charter Northern Ireland: supporting and protecting children and young people

A snapshot of key issues relating to children in Northern Ireland.

Read the charter (PDF)

Information for child protection professionals in Northern Ireland

Read our guide about the NSPCC’s helpline and Childline services and how we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.

Read our guide

Keeping safe

A series of reports which highlight our findings from research on the development of effective preventative education in primary schools in Northern Ireland.
Find out more

Living with adversity: a qualitative study of families with multiple and complex needs

A literature review and a study into the experiences of families in Northern Ireland with multiple needs who were receiving support from Barnardo’s or NSPCC services.
Find out more

Helpline highlight: protecting children in Northern Ireland: 2012-13

Looks at the contacts made to the NSPCC from Northern Ireland in 2012/13. Part of the NSPCC's Helpline highlight series.
Find out more

More research from Northern Ireland

Find more research and resources from Northern Ireland in our library catalogue.

View research reports

Services for children and families in Northern Ireland

Boy leaning on a climbing frameWe have service centres across the United Kingdom which offer a combination of services to children, families and professionals. We support parents and families in caring for their children and provide therapeutic assistance to help children move on from abuse.

What you can do in Northern Ireland

Child protection training and consultancy in Northern Ireland

We have a range of Northern Ireland specific training courses and a consultancy service that can help you grow your child protection knowledge and skills.
Find out more

Find an event near you

From marathon to skydives, bake sales to gala dinners, we've got an event for you in Northern Ireland.

Find an event near you

A child safe from abuse is free to dream

You donation can take a child anywhere - help us keep more children safe. 

Donate now


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