The ongoing North South work of my Department takes place under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council. The North South Ministerial Council meets in Sectoral Format to oversee co-operation in agreed areas/sectors. At these Sectoral meetings the Irish Government is represented by the Minister or the Minister of State responsible for that Sector, and the Northern Ireland Executive is represented by two Ministers nominated by the First Minister and deputy First Minister on a cross-community basis.
Following a North South Ministerial Council Plenary meeting in February 2008, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety [DHSSPS] and the then Office of the Minister for Children (now DCYA) established a Cross Border Group on Child Protection, comprising officials from relevant departments to intensify cooperation on Child Protection including:
- early progress on an all-island Child Protection awareness campaign;
- the identification of other medium/long term measures to improve Child Protection, including an examination of an all-island approach to child protection, focusing in particular on vetting and exchange of information;
- any areas for co-operation on children’s services emerging from the North South Feasibility Study on health and social services.
The cross border group is co-chaired by DCYA and DHSSPS. In June, 2008, it was agreed to take forward 5 initiatives through a sub-group structure, in areas where co-operation, shared learning and best practice could be of benefit to both jurisdictions, and to meet every six months to review progress. The first five sub-groups were:
(i) Vetting and Barring Protocol
(ii) Research and Knowledge Transfer in Child Protection
(iii) Internet Safety
(iv) All-Ireland Media Awareness
(v) Inter-Jurisdictional Protocol for the Transfer of Child Care cases between Northern Ireland and Ireland
The Steering Group agreed that since the work of the first five sub-groups had largely been completed, they were accordingly stood down and a new work programme developed. The group, in July 2012, explored a number of areas of potential co-operation and recommended that a future programme of work be taken forward through five specific work streams focussing on: Work Stream 1 - Knowledge Exchange Forum, designed to promote continued learning through use of research and evidence based practice.
Work Stream 2 - Quality and Effectiveness, to build work-force capacity and improve the quality and effectiveness of social work and social care work interventions and practice.
Work Stream 3 - Deaths of Children in Care, contribute to learning in relation to deaths of children in care by developing an overview and analysis of the features of deaths of children in care in both jurisdictions.
Work Stream 4 - Cultural Competence in Safeguarding, to assist the development of common guidance for practitioners working with other cultures and to develop a publication of Good Practice Notes for work with new communities.
Work Stream 5 - Specialist Services, to assess the opportunities to develop specialist services on a cross-border basis to assist in meeting the needs of those children and families where there is a requirement for a high volume of expertise.