Child protection in Northern Ireland Legislation, policy and guidance

The Northern Ireland Executive government is responsible for child protection in Northern Ireland. They set out policy, legislation and statutory guidance on how the child protection system should work.

The Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) co-ordinates, and ensures the effectiveness of, work to protect and promote the welfare of children. The board includes representatives from health, social care, the police, the probation board, youth justice, education, district councils and the NSPCC. The SBNI is responsible for developing policies and procedures to improve how different agencies work together.

Legislation

This act provides the legislative framework for Northern Ireland's child protection system. It sets out:

  • parental responsibilities and rights, and
  • duties and powers public authorities have to support children and intervene if there are concerns about a child

View The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

Sets out a definition of bullying and outlines duty of governors in grant-aided schools to secure measures to prevent bullying and keep a record of incidents.

Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

Act requiring co-operation among public authorities to contribute to the well-being of children and young people.

View the Children's Services Co-operation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015

This act sets out the law for the creation of a new regional Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland and the establishment of five Safeguarding Panels to support the SBNI's work at a Health and Social Care Trust level.

View the Safeguarding Board Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

This act sets out measures to prevent unsuitable adults from working with children.

View the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007

This act includes measures for failing to disclose an arrestable offence to the police.

View the Criminal Law Act 1967

Find out more about the legislation affecting sexual, physical abuse and neglect.

 Policy and guidance

Our children and young people

Our children and young people: our pledge: a ten year strategy for children and young people in Northern Ireland 2006-2016 says children should:

  • be living in a society which respects their rights
  • be healthy
  • enjoy learning and achieving
  • have safety and stability
  • have economic and environmental well being
  • be contributing positively.

Download Our children and young people: our pledge: a ten year strategy for children and young people in Northern Ireland 2006-2016 (PDF)
(Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2006)

Understanding the Needs of Children in Northern Ireland (UNOCINI)

The Understanding the Needs of Children in Northern Ireland (UNOCINI) assessment framework provides a clear process for assessing the needs of a child and for ensuring that these needs are addressed. It is designed to be used by all practitioners providing services to children and families.

The UNOCINI Guidance on Thresholds of Needs Model can be used to assist in determining the child or young person’s level of need and how best to meet those needs.

Download UNOCINI guidance: Understanding the needs of children in Northern Ireland (PDF)
(Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2006)

Download rhe UNOCINI Guidance on Thresholds of Needs Model (PDF)
(Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2010)

Co-operating to Safeguard Children and young people in Northern Ireland

Replaces the ‘Co-operating to Safeguard Children’ guidance issued in 2003. It provides the overarching policy framework for safeguarding children and young people in the statutory, private, independent, community, voluntary and faith sectors. Outlines how communities, organisations and individuals must work both individually and in partnership to ensure children and young people are safeguarded as effectively as possible.

View Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland
(Department of Health, 2016)

Area Child Protection Committees' Regional Policy and Procedures

Sets out child protection policy and procedures and should be used in conjunction with 'Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland.'

View Area Child Protection Committees' Regional Policy and Procedures
(Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2005)

Protocol for joint investigation by social workers and police officers of alleged abuse and suspected cases of child abuse – Northern Ireland

Sets out how key partner agencies should work together effectively to ensure that the best interests of the child underpin every aspect of child protection work.

Download Protocol for joint investigation by social workers and police officers of alleged abuse and suspected cases of child abuse – Northern Ireland
(HSCB et al, 2013)

Guidance to safeguarding board for Northern Ireland (SBNI)

Guidance to safeguarding board for Northern Ireland sets out how the SBNI coordinates and ensures the effectiveness of its member agencies.

Download Guidance to safeguarding board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) (PDF)
(Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2014)

Co-operating to safeguard children 

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

Twitter

Follow the official NSPCC Northern Ireland Twitter account

Follow @NSPCCNI

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