A NUI Galway professor has been appointed to a special panel to review social care services in Northern Ireland.
Professor Pat Dolan was appointed to the panel after an announcement made by the Northern Ireland Executive Health Minister Robin Swann MLA.
The panel is expected to run for 16 months. The review will engage with parents, children, young people, and those working in and alongside children’s social care services.
Professor Dolan will be on an Advisory Panel which will assist the lead reviewer Professor Ray Jones.
Other members of the Advisory Panel include Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth of the Northern Ireland County Court and former Director of Children’s Services, Marie Roulston, OBE.
Young people, parent, and carers with personal experience of children’s social care services also have places on the panel. They are being independently recruited and supported by the Voice of Young People in Care and Children in Northern Ireland.
Professor Dolan is also the Director of the Institute for Lifecourse and Society and UNESCO Chair at the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway.
He said a key part of the review will be listening to the voices of those with direct personal experience of the system.
“The creation of this panel enables an important gateway to hear the voice of the parents and young people with direct personal experience of social care services.
“It is intended that the review will lead to action in terms of better outcomes for service users and the professionals who work with and for them – where families views are not just heard but acted on.”
The panel will look at the support services for families in place in order to keep their children safe, the care of children away from their families and how the services are currently structured.
It will also be tasked with looking at the support for staff and how it can be developed to provide the best services possible to those who need their help and support.
The Children Order was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1995 and was designed to support and protect children to the highest extent possible.
There are more children in care now than at any stage since the introduction of the Children Order and there has been a sharp increase since the start of the pandemic.