NSPCC chief calls on new Stormont Executive to put children and families first

The head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland has called on politicians at Stormont to put local children and families at the heart of their future policy-making and spending priorities.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 11:16 am
NSPCC chief Neil Anderson

Neil Anderson says the collapse of the Assembly in 2017 had a serious impact on enabling key decision-making to protect and safeguard children and young people from harm.

“The NI Executive’s return is potentially transformative and the commitment laid out in the New Decade, New Approach Deal to reform health and social care, particularly mental health, as well as education and justice should go some way to achieving positive change for local children and families,” he said.

“We ask that immediate attention be given to reforming children’s and young people’s access to mental health services and support.

In 2018/19, our Childline service’s two bases in Belfast and Foyle delivered more than 30,000 counselling sessions to children and young people under the age of 19, with mental health being one of the top areas of concern for them.

“Realistic investment needs to be provided to deliver the Protect Life 2 Suicide Prevention Strategy with a clear focus on early intervention and support services for young people in distress.

We also know that up to one in five mothers experience perinatal mental health problems and so we want the restored government to get behind our Fight for a Fair Start Campaign and invest and transform specialist services to ensure parents get the support when they need it.

“At a time when domestic and sexual abuse is at an all-time high in Northern Ireland it is crucial that we bring forward legislation to better protect children and families, and increased investment to make sure that specialist services are available to children who need support and help them rebuild their lives.

“Encouragingly the deal makes provision for justice reform, including proposing the delivery of changes reported in Sir John Gillen’s review on the handling of serious sexual offence cases. It’s crucial that young people get the right support throughout the criminal justice process from the point of reporting a crime through to case completion. The NSPCC’s Young Witness Service supports children and young people aged under 18 who have to attend court as witnesses.

“But all our children and young people deserve greater protection, better outcomes and more opportunities to thrive. We hope that 2020 is the start of a decade where our political representatives work together to make a tangible difference to the lives and futures of Northern Ireland’s children and young people. Those who would harm children won’t wait to target them, so we can’t afford to waste further time preventing progress on measures that will help keep them safe.”