Government must work together and develop new approaches to improving services for children in care, Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, said today.
The Minister emphasised that implementing the Care Matters strategy will be key in delivering long-term, fundamental reform of services for children in care over the next decade and more.
Speaking after an Assembly debate on the strategy, the Minister said: “Children in care are our special responsibility and our expectations for them should also be the same as they are for our own children.
“However, the harsh facts are that outcomes for children in care are often poor in comparison with their peers, with most facing the prospect of poor educational attainment and conflict with the law and suffering from low self-esteem, greater risk of mental health problems and uncertainty about the future.
“Through ‘Care Matters in Northern Ireland’, we have a unique opportunity to tackle these issues at every level. The document outlines a radical new approach to developing and enhancing services with a view to improving the lives of looked after children.”
The strategy sets out a number of ambitious goals including:
The Minister added: "Care Matters’ is the start of a process to significantly improve services for children in care. I will do all I can to ensure that we deliver the best possible services for our vulnerable children and young people in Northern Ireland. I believe that ‘Care Matters’ provides us with a very positive starting point from which to build a service of which we can all be justifiably proud.
“I believe it will make a real difference to all children in care who are entitled to the same opportunities in life as children living with parents. The holistic approach outlined in the document requires the support of a number of Departments and I hope that I will enjoy the full support of my colleagues in taking it forward.”
1. The strategy has received widespread support and the endorsement of key local stakeholders including: Barnardo’s, the NSPCC, NICCY and Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI).
2. The proposals are centred on six main areas:
3. The Care Matters strategy was issued for consultation on 30 March 2007. Responses are due by 15 June. As part of the consultation process, specific events targeted at children and young people are being organised, in partnership with the voluntary sector, to ensure that every opportunity is given to children in care to have their say.