New programme launched aimed at reforming NI’s children’s social work services

Social workers working in children’s services in NI have a vital role in supporting families and protecting children from harm. 

This was the message from NI’s Chief Social Worker Sean Holland as he spoke before the regional launch of the Signs of Safety training programme today, part of a wider programme of reform of family and children’s social services in Northern Ireland. 

£2.2million has been allocated from the £100million Transformation Fund to support the implementation and roll-out of the Signs of Safety model across all five Health and Social Care Trusts.

Sean Holland said: “The additional funding will see social workers trained in the Signs of Safety approach, to ensure that they are well equipped to work in partnership with children and their families.

“Building on the skills and experience social workers already have, training in the Signs of Safety approach will enable them to respond quickly to the needs of children and families, identify what is working well within the family, and agree solutions aimed at keeping children safe from harm.”

Signs of Safety is one of a number of developments being supported by the Transformation Fund to reform the way children’s social work services in NI are delivered.  Other projects include services aimed at increasing early intervention and family support to children and families in need, and ensuring that, where children have to be taken into care, services are available that provide them and their carers with the support and stability they need.  For children leaving care, transformation funding will also be used to help them transition into better and more successful adult lives.

In his opening address at the event, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, said: “The investment in Signs of Safety is part of the ongoing programme to transform health and social care services in Northern Ireland, to bring about the changes needed to ensure that our system can continue to deliver high quality care focused on prevention and early intervention. 

“In total, over £8million in transformation funding has been made available to family and children’s social services this year.  This additional funding provides a unique opportunity to deliver real and lasting improvements in the services we provide. 

“In the longer term, the investment in family and children’s social services has the potential to address the negative impacts of childhood trauma that we know leave a lasting mark in many areas of adult life and across multiple generations.”

Welcoming the investment in the initiative, Kieran Downey, Chair of the Association of Executive Directors of Social Work, said: “The Signs of Safety approach supports the transformation of how Social Workers engage with children and families at some of the most difficult times in their lives.

“The wider reform and transformation programme across Family and Child Care has been developed collaboratively and the Association of  Executive Directors wish to acknowledge the collective engagement of all who have made this possible.

“Significantly, the reform programme also has the potential to begin to address the impact of childhood adversity by putting in place the foundations to build community awareness and resilience.”