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Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland highlights the drop in referrals for children that may have experienced harm and the worries of this due to COVID 19.


Tom Cassidy, Assistant Director for Safeguarding Children and Looked After Children

The Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) has noticed a drop in referrals about children who may have experienced harm to police and Children Social Services over the last 3 weeks. This is worrying as it may mean some children do not have the support needed in order to keep them safe.

For a lot of vulnerable children in our community, school and nursery is a safe space. School, nursery and childcare often provides supports to parents too and when needed these services have been able to reach out to social services if they are worried about a child’s safety. It may be that the closure of normal school, nursery and childcare arrangements in NI has contributed to the reduction in these referrals.  As such, SBNI want to ask the public to be more mindful of those children in their community who they worry might not be safe at home or who they believe are in need of extra support and protection and to stress that if there are worries for a child, please contact Police or Social Services.

The SBNI wants to highlight that the main statutory child protection agencies tasked with keeping children safe and investigating worries about a child being harmed are open. Social services and the police are and will continue to respond to worries of children being harmed or in need of extra support and protection.

The Health and Social Care Trusts, PSNI and the Education Authority are continuing to work together to identify vulnerable children and families and to provide them with the support and safety to ensure they receive the care they need.

PSNI will continue to work in partnership with HSC Trusts to investigate and respond to any worries raised or allegations made that children are not being cared for in the way they need to be, or are being harmed. The HSC Trusts and PSNI have a role under legislation to support and protect children and their families and will continue to fulfil these obligations. This may mean seeking advice or direction from the Court to make children safe.

Although not in a formal classroom setting in school, the Education Authority will continue to support and engage children and young people through other education services, such as; Youth Service, Educational Welfare, Exceptional Teaching arrangements.  These supports will be particularly focused towards children who are identified as needing the most support and protection.

Community and voluntary sectors continue to provide much needed support as well. Family Support Hubs and local community groups continue have contact with and offer support to children, young people and their families in their Community.

However during these difficult times there are some children who may not be safe from harm at home or who will not get the level of care they need.  The greatest worry is that some of these children will be ‘unseen and unheard’.  It is for this reason we are asking the public to play a vital role with us in coming together to help us support and create greater safety for these children.  To do this, we are asking the public that if they have any worries about a child not being safe or not receiving the care they need, or even if they feel their carers just need some extra support to do this through this difficult time, please contact the local Health and Social Care Trust Children’s Services Gateway team or the police on 101. In an emergency the police should always be contacted on 999.