10 February 2011
1.These Explanatory Notes relate to the Safeguarding Board Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 which received Royal Assent on 10 February 2011. They have been prepared by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in order to assist the reader in understanding the Act. They do not form part of the Act and have not been endorsed by the Assembly.
2.The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Act. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Act. So where a section or part of a section or Schedule does not seem to require an explanation or comment, none is given.
3.In the early 1990s Area Child Protection Committees (ACPCs) were established in each of the former Health and Social Services Boards. The ACPCs were responsible for promoting inter-agency work to protect children and to monitor and evaluate how well child protection services were working. In 2006, a range of measures were introduced which were designed to strengthen child protection in Northern Ireland. Among these was a proposal to improve interagency co-operation on child protection through the establishment of a regional Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI). This measure is designed to ensure co-operation at the highest level within Government Departments, the Health and Social Care system, local government and in the voluntary and community sectors.
4.The Safeguarding Board will replace the current Regional Child Protection Committee which has been operating since November 2009. The Act will provide the required legislative framework for the creation of a new regional Safeguarding Board (SBNI). It will also provide the legislative framework for the creation of a structure of 5 Safeguarding Panels, one located in each Health and Social Care Trust’s geographical area, to support the SBNI.
5.In October 2002, a Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by Patricia Lewsley, then an SDLP MLA, had been due to have its first reading in the Assembly. However, following the suspension of the Assembly, the Bill did not proceed. As the DHSSPS proposals to establish a Safeguarding Board were largely building on Ms Lewsley’s proposals, which had already been subject to two separate consultations, it was agreed that it would only be necessary to undertake a short consultation period of 4 weeks which lasted from 15 January 2007 until 9 February 2007.
6.The 2007 consultation elicited a total of 47 responses from a range of stakeholders across the voluntary and statutory sector. In general, there were many positive comments that welcomed the proposals. A range of issues and suggestions were also highlighted and have been extremely helpful in informing consideration of the detail of the proposals.
7.The Act has 18 sections. A commentary on the provisions follows below. Comments are not given where the wording is self-explanatory.
Provides for the establishment of a Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) and places a duty on the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (the Department) to establish the SBNI.
Sets out the principal objective of the SBNI which is to co-ordinate and ensure the effectiveness of what is done by each person or body represented on the SBNI to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Describes the main duties and powers of the SBNI.
Provides a power for the Department to give directions (either general or specific) to the SBNI as to how the SBNI should carry out its functions. The Department is also required to consult with the SBNI before issuing directions. The section also provides for the Department to give directions without consulting in cases where the urgency of the matter necessitates it but requires the Department, in cases where the duty to consult has been set aside because of the urgency of the matter, to report retrospectively to the SBNI with reasons for taking this course of action.
Provides that the way in which the SBNI exercises its functions may be prescribed in subordinate legislation. It places a duty on the SBNI to have due regard to any guidance provided by the Department in relation to the exercise of SBNI functions.
Places a duty on the SBNI to produce an annual report for the Department in such form, and containing such information, as may be prescribed. The Department must lay a copy of the report before the Assembly.
Places a duty on the SBNI to establish (i) a prescribed number of committees which will be known as Safeguarding Panels; (ii) a committee which will be known as the Child Death Overview Panel; and (iii) a committee which will be known as the Case Management Review Panel. It also gives the SBNI power to establish other committees. In addition, it gives a power to the SBNI or a committee to establish one or more sub-committees. It provides that aspects such as the procedure, functions, staff, premises and expenses of committees and sub-committees may be prescribed in subordinate legislation. It further provides that the Department may pay the Chairs of committees and sub-committees such remuneration and expenses as the Department may, with the approval of the Department of Finance and Personnel, determine. It also provides a power to prescribe for members of committees and sub-committees.
Provides that the way in which each committee and sub-committee exercises their functions may be prescribed in subordinate legislation. It also places a duty on each committee and sub-committee to have due regard to any guidance provided by the Department or the SBNI in relation to the exercise of their functions.
Places a duty on each committee to produce an annual report for the SBNI in such form and containing such information as may be prescribed.
Places a reciprocal duty of co-operation on the SBNI and its constituent bodies and any other bodies that may be included in the SBNI.
Places a duty on bodies or persons to supply information requested by the SBNI but sets out the specific conditions to be satisfied before such requests for information can be met.
Places a duty on each person and body to which this particular section applies to make sure that they have due regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in exercising their functions. It also places a requirement on the bodies to have due regard to any guidance provided by the Department in relation to the exercise of their duty under this section.
Makes minor or consequential amendments to other legislation.
Allows the Department to make further provision in connection with implementing the Act.
Contains provision about the required procedures for making subordinate legislation under the Act.
Provides that the main provisions of the Act come into operation on a later day as appointed by the Department.
8.The following table sets out the dates of the Hansard reports for each stage of the Act’s passage through the Assembly.
|Introduction to the Assembly||8 June 2010|
|Second Stage debate||22 June 2010|
|Committee Stage - Departmental briefing on the provisions of the Act||9 September 2010|
|Committee Stage - Evidence Sessions with Children in Northern Ireland, Voice of Young People in Care and NSPCC||16 September 2010|
|Committee Stage - Evidence Sessions with Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust||23 September 2010|
|Committee Stage - Evidence Sessions with Bradford Safeguarding Children Board, Professor Jan Horwath and Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY)||30 September 2010|
|Committee Stage - Evidence Session with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Youth Justice Agency||7 October 2010|
|Committee Stage - Evidence Session with Departmental Officials to discuss sections 1 to 4||14 October 2010|
|Committee Stage - Evidence Session with Departmental Officials to discuss sections 5 to 18||21 October 2010|
|Committee Stage - Evidence Session with Departmental Officials to discuss proposed amendments||4 November 2010|
|Committee Stage - Formal Consideration of sections.||11 November 2010|
|Committee Stage - Formal Consideration of sections.||18 November 2010|
|Committee’s report on the Act - Report number 22/10/11R||25 November 2010|
|Consideration Stage in the Assembly||14 December 2010|
|Further Consideration Stage||17 January 2011|
|Final Stage||25 January 2011|
|Royal Assent||10 February 2011|